Gaming’s ballot box success could help its cause on Capitol Hill By Howard Stutz, Executive Editor, CDC Gaming Reports November 7, 2020 at 5:00 am Gaming’s exceptional night on Tuesday – voters in six states overwhelmingly approved sports betting, new casinos, and expanded gambling options – sent a pretty clear message to the federal government. The states are doing a good job regulating and overseeing gaming within their borders. In other words, back away from any prospective federal oversight. “Through ballot initiatives, voters in six states chose to bring more consumers into well-regulated gaming markets and discourage them from participating in black markets,” said Nevada Rep. Dina Titus, who co-chairs the Congressional Gaming Caucus. Titus, a Democrat whose district includes the Las Vegas Strip, encourages any new gaming markets to “look to Nevada as the gold standard for how to implement and regulate legal gaming.” Titus and other members of the gaming caucus back key issues that have been languishing in Congress for several years, notably increasing the antiquated $1,200 jackpot reporting threshold, which has been in place since 1977, and repealing the 0.25% federal excise tax on sports betting. With a new administration apparently headed for the White House, those two issues that have been important to gaming leaders and championed by Titus may finally gain some traction. The immediate concern, however, is the gaming industry’s inclusion in any new COVID-19 relief package. American Gaming Association CEO Bill Miller has made that effort a top priority. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nevada The gaming industry requires a boost as it works past the COVID-19 casino shutdowns that decimated the balance sheets of casino operators and gaming equipment providers and forced the layoffs of thousands of gaming employees. Casinos have been operating for months under state-mandated COVID-19 health and safety protocols and reduced capacity guidelines for social distancing. “To effectively recover, our industry needs critical relief that aids employee retention and rehiring, provides liability protections for responsible operators, supports tribal nations, and jumpstarts the travel and tourism industry,” Miller said. “There has never been a more important time for the gaming industry to speak with a unified voice and common purpose.” Titus said the election could help increase the membership of the gaming caucus. With more members from gaming states, the collective, which she co-chairs with Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, could have a stronger, broader, more universal voice. “(More members) will allow us to more forcefully make the case that the gaming industry must be treated fairly in any future relief package and pave the way for progress on issues that we have pursued for years,” Titus said. Miller, who is completing his second year as the AGA’s CEO, said the Washington D.C. trade organization has the task of explaining to federal lawmakers the positive impact the industry has on jobs and economic well-being in communities across the U.S., all while operating in a responsible manner. “We also look forward to continuing to work with members on both sides of the aisle to address overly burdensome and unnecessary regulations and taxes, as well as reducing illegal gambling operations that continue to pose a risk to the American public and the economic success of our industry,” Miller said. AGA CEO Bill Miller testifies in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in July 2020. In July, Miller told the Senate Judiciary Committee during a hearing that any potential federal framework to oversee the growing legal sports betting market in the U.S. was unnecessary. States and Indian tribes, Miller said, “have proven to be effective regulators.” Tuesday’s approval of sports betting by voters in Maryland, South Dakota, and Louisiana puts the nation on track to have legal and regulated sports betting available in 25 of the 50 U.S. states and Washington D.C. by the end of 2021. That’s one reason the excise tax – often referred to as the handle tax – needs to be eliminated. Titus, who has opposed the tax since 2014, has said the tax hurts legal sportsbooks and provides an edge to the illegal offshore sports betting market, which, due to its illicit nature, can avoid paying the tax. The jackpot reporting threshold is equally outdated and imposes significant compliance burdens on the gaming industry, its customers, and the Internal Revenue Service. Miller and several casino leaders jointly asked the Department of Treasury more than a year ago to update the reporting threshold to “a realistic level, in-line with inflation.” In many ways, the May 2018 PASPA repeal already feels like ancient, dusty history. If anything, Tuesday’s success at the ballot box seems to signal that the country’s acceptance of gaming as a viable and mainstream business will continue to grow. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.