Becky Harris bets she and her International Center for Gaming Regulation colleagues may just be onto something.
The former state Gaming Control Board chairwoman, now an academic sports betting fellow with the UNLV-based center, said the first gathering of the U.S. Sports Betting Forum on Wednesday in Boston was a success.
The need for a sports betting forum was realized over the past year after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act on May 14, 2018. Seven states have joined Nevada in offering legalized sports betting since. But with each state approval comes different rules and regulations overseeing betting. Only Nevada has multiple decades of experience and data on sports betting, which is one of the reasons UNLV took up the challenge of bringing people together to talk about it.
“It was fantastic,” she said. “There was a lot of interest, and it was well-attended, and we had a diversity of stakeholders there. We had an opportunity to talk in-depth about issues that matter. The key topic of this forum was integrity, and everybody is very interested in seeing this continue.”
Harris said about 25 people attended the forum, which occurred at the Boston Convention Center as an aside to the International Casino Exhibition North America trade show.
The only disappointment in the forum was that representatives of sports teams and leagues didn’t attend.
“Teams and leagues were invited and provided with all of the necessary information in terms of date, time and location,” Harris said. “We would certainly love for the sports leagues to have an interest in being a part of this forum ensuring their perspective.”
The presence of leagues and teams is being sought because many of them have pitched the idea of seeking a percentage of betting revenue in exchange for providing official data by which wagering outcomes can be determined. Some leagues have gone so far as to propose that data fees be legislated in states where sports betting has been proposed for legalization.
Among Wednesday’s attendees were regulators from across the United States, sportsbook operators, payment companies, sports integrity groups and a representative from the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers.
Harris said the first business meeting for the group behind the betting forum will be in October in Las Vegas. Harris said she would solicit topics for discussion.
“We’ll probably start talking about what kinds of challenges we might face with minor-league or nonprofessional sports,” she said. “Certainly there is a desire to have an educational component so we can talk to the stakeholders about new developments that have occurred, whether they’re at the state legislative level or with regard to potentially new technologies or new jurisdictions that have come on line with sports betting.”
Last week, an industry analyst endorsed the concept of the sports-betting forum and said Harris needs to try to recruit all sides of the issues, even if some of the stakeholders have their own agendas.
“I think that it’s necessary to make the attempt to have this kind of an organization, no matter how optimistic or pessimistic you might be about its chances,” said Chris Grove, managing director of sports and emerging verticals for Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, a research company.
Grove was unable to attend the forum.
“The stakes are simply too high in terms of what policymakers, lawmakers and regulators could get wrong about sports betting.”