NY Congressman Wants Federal Law To Rein In Sports Betting Industry

Written By David Danzis on March 21, 2024
NY Congressman Paul Tonko intends to introduce bill to limit sportsbook ads and protect consumers.

A New York congressman is going head-to-head with the legal sports betting industry by attempting to tackle how online sportsbooks are marketing to and engaging with customers.

US Rep. Paul Tonko says he will introduce the SAFE Bet Act. The not-yet-filed bill limits how often sports gambling ads can air during games and bans certain language in betting promotions. Beyond that, the legislation also prohibits credit card deposits, restricts the use of AI to target a customer’s habits and requires sportsbooks to reject any more than five deposits from a customer in a 24-hour period.

Tonko, D-20th District, said the SAFE (Supporting Affordability and Fairness With Every) Bet Act would replace his Betting On Our Futures Act, which was introduced last year. That bill sought to ban all online and digital sports betting advertising.

“We are dealing with a massive and growing public health crisis involving a known, addictive product,” Tonko said during a press conference Tuesday while flanked by representatives from Northeastern University’s Public Health Advocacy Institute.

New York sports betting leads the nation

Following a 2018 US Supreme Court decision, legal sports betting spread throughout the country like wildfire. Thirty-seven states, Washington DC and Puerto Rico now offer regulated sports wagering. Americans have wagered more than $337 billion on sports in the five-and-a-half years since.

Sports betting in New York has exceeded even the loftiest market projections. More than $37.8 billion has been wagered with NY sportsbooks since 2019, generating over $3.3 billion in revenue and more than $1.7 billion in taxes.

NY leads all legal US sports gambling jurisdictions in terms of handle (total amount wagered), sportsbook revenue and state tax collections since 2018.

Gambling’s darker side behind NY congressman’s fight

Partly because of the widespread accessibility of online sports betting across the country, the number of people affected by a gambling disorder or addiction is rising. Tonko says the SAFE Bet Act is as much a mental health solution as it is an effort to fight back against a “predatory” industry.

At his press conference, Tonko said:

“Today I’m proud to unveil the framework for our tentatively titled SAFE Bet Act. Our new legislation expands beyond just the advertising concerns raised in the Betting on our Future Act and takes a comprehensive public-health oriented approach of requiring states that offer sports betting to meet minimum federal standards in the areas of advertising, affordability and artificial intelligence.”

More details on SAFE Bet Act

The specifics of Tonko’s latest bill will become clearer once it is formally introduced. Here’s what we know so far:

  • No sportsbook advertising during live games/matches
  • No using the terms “Bonus bets,” “No sweat bets” or other misleading language
  • No credit card deposits
  • No more than five deposits from an account in a 24-hour timeframe
  • No using AI to track gambling habits
  • No using AI to create tailored proposition bets, promotional bets or micro bets

Tonko thinks it’s time to set industry regulations and protections at the federal level.

“By taking a comprehensive national approach to sports betting focused on advertising, affordability, and AI, we can create a safer, less addictive product while still preserving the freedom to bet for those who wish to do so,” Tonko said. “This industry needs to change and change quickly, and I’m not going to stop until we get this done.”

Photo by AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
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David Danzis

David Danzis is a writer for PlayNY. A New Jersey native and honors graduate of Rutgers University, he served as a newspaper reporter for the New Jersey Herald and Press of Atlantic City, earning statewide awards for his coverage of politics, government, education, sports and business. Today, he contributes to New York's growing legal gambling landscape, including online sports betting and potential legalization of NY online casinos. David lives in Mays Landing with his wife and two children. When not on the beach, a golf course, or snowboarding, David enjoys watching his beloved New York sports teams — Yankees, Jets, Rangers and Knicks.

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