The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) has voted to join the American Gaming Association’s (AGA) lobbying campaign to legalize and regulate sports betting in the United States, a decision the gaming industry’s largest trade association welcomed enthusiastically.

“We’re pleased that mayors across the country have become the latest stakeholders to support a new approach to sports betting in the United States,” said Sara Rayme, senior vice president of public affairs at the AGA.

“Momentum continues to build for addressing the nearly $150bn illegal sports-betting market that fails to protect the integrity of sports we all love,” Rayme said in an email to GamblingCompliance. “We look forward to working closely with them.”

The USCM held its 84th annual meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, where the non-partisan organization adopted the resolution titled “Addressing Illegal Sports Betting Through Regulation.”

The resolution says the USCM and the nation’s mayors “believe it’s time for a new approach to sports betting in the United States that could include strict regulation, rigorous consumer protections, taxation of revenues to benefit local communities, and robust tools and resources for law enforcement to root out illegal sports betting and uphold the integrity of the games.”

The USCM, which held its annual meeting June 24-27, also said it will work with the AGA to study the potential benefits of a regulated market. The resolution is not legally binding in any jurisdiction.

Tom Cochran, CEO and executive director of USCM, told GamblingCompliance Wednesday the organization approved the resolution simply because “mayors believe it’s time for a new approach to sports betting.”

Cochran said that new approach includes “strict regulation, rigorous consumer protection, taxation of revenues to benefit cities, and robust tools and resources for law enforcement to root out illegal betting activities.”

In return, the AGA will add the mayors to its stakeholder advisory committee that includes law enforcement agencies, consumers and sports leagues.

“Mayors want to be at the table as any future regulations are being developed; and look forward to working with representatives from the gaming, law enforcement and sports leagues to look at this issue,” Cochran said.

The AGA estimates $149bn was bet on sports illegally in the U.S. last year. In comparison, Nevada reported its legal sports-betting industry posted $4.2bn in handle for 2015.

Sports-betting handle in Nevada declined year-over-year in May. The Nevada Gaming Control Boardreported sportsbooks took in $312.5m in May, compared with $315.8m last year.

Sportsbooks won $5.9m in May, down from almost $20m in May 2015. Analysts attributed the decline to the absence of a marquee boxing match like last year’s championship fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao.

Rayme said the AGA has been building a coalition of supporters from the gaming industry, law enforcement, politics, and professional sports leagues to begin lobbying next year for the expansion of legalized sports wagering.

At a day-long Gaming Experts Forum last week in Washington , D.C. attended by reporters, gaming analysts, congressional staff and industry executives, Rayme outlined the AGA’s three-pronged strategy to overturn the federal ban on sports betting — the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA).

She said the AGA’s strategy will define the problem PASPA has created, look for opportunities to overturn PASPA, and build a broad coalition to move any measure through Congress to “get it on the next President’s desk.”

Rayme expected legalized sports betting in the U.S. within the next three to five years.

According to the AGA, any effective approach to legalized sports betting should include strict regulation, rigorous consumer protections, taxes on revenues to benefit local communities, and robust tools for law enforcement.

PASPA prohibits state-sponsored sports betting in all but four states.

Nevada is the only state permitted to offer single-game wagering. The sports lotteries conducted in Delaware, Oregon and Montana are exempt. Also excluded from PASPA are jai alai, and pari-mutuel horse and dog racing.

Congress provided a one-year window of opportunity from the effective date of PASPA on January 1, 1993 for states with licensed casino gaming for the previous ten years to pass law permitting sports wagering.

However, New Jersey failed to pass laws allowing sportsbooks in Atlantic City casinos.

New Jersey has spent nearly four years in court fighting with the NCAA, NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball to bring legal sports betting to its ailing casinos and racetracks. A decision from theThird Circuit Court of Appeals is expected this summer.

Dan Wallach, a gaming attorney with Becker & Poliakoff in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, said the country will get to legalized sports betting in a number of ways.

“The American Gaming Association’s campaign is a start,” Wallach said. “The NBA or NFL will lead the charge. But legal challenges will be the one that changes the scene. New Jersey has led the way all on their own.”


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