Democrat Congressman Paul Tonko plans to address a potential “public health crisis” by advocating for a nationwide ban on sports betting ads.
Tonko expressed concern as Las Vegas gears up to host Super Bowl LVIII amid the industry’s rapid integration into mainstream American sports. So far, he is a rare voice of dissent in Washington, which is also another area where gambling establishments are proliferating.
A mere dozen years ago, U.S. authorities arrested and jailed online gambling executives. Now, placing wagers is a breeze in most of America, thanks to the head-spinning transformation of official attitudes toward online gambling.
“There’s no limit to this,” Tonko said to the Guardian. “You can’t have this wild west environment.”
Despite the surge in gambling promotions during the Super Bowl, Tonko emphasizes that he is not seeking to outlaw gambling but rather to regulate it.
“Look, I have a horse track in my district,” he said. “I’m not against gambling.”
As the fiercest critic on Capitol Hill, Tonko insists on halting the sprint of this now-legal sector. His campaign, launched nine months ago, remains a solitary crusade. No other Congress member has publicly endorsed it, but Tonko remains resolute.
In a one-hour interview, the New York Democrat viciously criticized the sector, accusing it of preying on the vulnerable, targeting recovering addicts with ads and prioritizing profits over people.
Since May 2018, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a decades-old law prohibiting legal sports betting, Tonko has been adamant that the divisive ruling poses risks. Supporters anticipated a financial boon for states, while opponents feared it would hook the young on gambling and corrupt professional and college sports.
With online sportsbooks legal in over two dozen states, there is a rising concern about compulsive gambling rates, and Tonko aims to address the issue before it leads to widespread suffering. In February, he proposed the Betting on Our Future Act, modeled after legislation banning tobacco ads in the 1960s, to protect the public from the influx of betting commercials.
Despite Tonko’s persistent opposition, the American Gaming Association contributed $13.5 billion in taxes to state and local governments last year.
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