New federal legislation seeks to make gambling a public health issue

Doctor holds up clipboard that says public health
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U.S. Rep Paul Tonko has introduced federal legislation that aims to regulate gambling as a public health issue in line with alcohol, tobacco and opioids.

The New York Democrat says that the SAFE Bet Act will focus on “advertising along with affordability and the AI impact on gambling” and is also supported by advisors from the Northeastern University’s Public Health Advocacy Institute.

“Sports always belonged to the American people, the American family,” said the  Public Health Advocacy Institute’s Gambling Policy Adviser Harry Levant. “Sports now belongs to the gambling industry. I would like to think there are people in those leadership positions, and potentially even gambling industry companies, who will say, ‘You know what? This thing has gotten out of control. It needs to be regulated to protect the American public.’”

The SAFE Bet Act is a next-generation version of the Betting on our Future Act that Tonko introduced last year which sought to ban all online and electronic advertising of sports gambling.

This latest bill will also seek to prohibit advertising during live sporting events while also banning promotions that offer bonus bets, odds boosts and other inducements.

Furthermore, the bill will also look to crucial the use of artificial intelligence by operators including preventing them from tracking customers’ gambling habits which are then used to offer individualize promotions as well as “microbets” and other AI-powered products. 

“One of my greatest concerns about an unregulated sports betting industry is its use of massive supercomputing power and artificial intelligence to deliver thousands of instant microbets that are carefully tailored to each consumer’s gambling profile,” added the Public Advocacy Institute’s Executive Director Mark Gottlieb. “These sorts of bets are offered every few seconds of practically every sporting event and provide opportunities for hundreds if not thousands of bets during a single contest.”

Further proposals include mandatory affordability checks on customers, the collection of data on sports betting and a national clearinghouse for people who want to be excluded from contact with betting companies.

Tonko plans a bipartisan approach in both the House and Senate to refine the bill’s language in hope of support over the next two months.

Louisiana representatives also seek to ban sports bet advertising

On a state level, Louisiana Rep. Shaun Mena’s House Bill 727 aims to stop the advertising of sports betting and daily fantasy sports on television.

“I’m not proposing that we ban online sports betting, not at all — I’m just want to ban the advertisement of it,” Democrat State Rep. Mena told WDSU News. “I’m fighting for the young men and women who are addicted to these products. Young men under the age of 35 are the largest demographic of online gambling addicts.”