27 July 2020
United States
AGA
Legislation
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AGA commends law to eliminate taxes on legal sportsbook operators, provide COVID-19 relief

(United States).- American Gaming Association (AGA) President and CEO Bill Miller released the following statement on bipartisan legislation Reps. Dina Titus (NV-01) and Guy Reschenthaler (PA-14) introduced to repeal the federal excise and head taxes.

The federal excise and head taxes levied on legal U.S. sportsbooks generate little meaningful revenue for the government. Instead, they place legitimate businesses at a significant competitive disadvantage against illicit gambling operations which skirt taxes and licensing fees. Though originally enacted in the 1950’s as a tool to curb illegal gambling, these antiquated federal taxes now give illegal operators a leg up.

“To absorb the unnecessary burden of these taxes, legal sportsbooks are forced to offer worse odds and payouts or reduce investment in promoting legal betting channels to the public. Furthermore, the head tax serves as an impediment to hiring at a time when providing jobs is critical.

“I’m grateful to the Congressional Gaming Caucus’ Co-Chairs Reps. Titus and Reschenthaler for introducing this legislation today to provide regulated operators with meaningful relief as they recover from the COVID-19 sports shutdown. Eliminating these taxes is a long overdue step to enable a legal, regulated environment for sports betting that will better protect customers and generate much-needed revenue for state and local economies.”

Background
The Internal Revenue Code requires regulated sports betting operators to pay a 0.25% federal excise tax on all wagers, in addition to a $50 annual tax (“head tax”) for every employee engaged in receiving bets.

These taxes accounted for less than $33 million in federal tax dollars in 2019.

Sportsbooks operate with a very low margin even in the lowest-taxed jurisdictions. For example, Nevada sportsbooks’ revenue is typically 5 percent of the total amount wagered, before accounting for taxes and operator expenses.

AGA research released Tuesday found that consumers want to wager legally but are still confused about which options are safe and regulated. Educating consumers about their legal options is critical to bringing bettors into the legal, regulated market.

Miller encouraged Congress to repeal the excise tax in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.