Lawmakers Pushing Bills to Impose Problem Gambling Measures after Scandal with the Dodgers Player

Almost simultaneously with the illegal gambling scandal with the Japanese interpreter of Los Angeles Dodgers baseball player Shohei Ohtani, lawmakers Paul Tonko and Richard Blumenthal introduced their separate bill proposals to impose restrictions on the sports betting industry in the United States. Blumenthal, a Dem. senator from Connecticut, and Tonka, a U.S. representative for New York’s 20th congressional district, are reportedly pushing bills to impose more responsibility to sports betting companies and consider the Ippei Mizuhara’s gambling addiction a distinctive example of the harm caused by the extensive availability of gambling activities across the country.

$4.5 Million Problem Gambling Cost:

As NBC News reports, Ippei Mizuhara, Ohtani’s interpreter and close friend, allegedly stole $4.5 million from Ohtani to pay off illegal sports betting operators from Northern California. As these operations were being investigated by the US Government, the interpreter was tracked and fired by the Dodgers last week.  “This situation clearly demonstrates the impact and harm that gambling addiction can inflict,” said Paul Tonko, who has recently introduced the SAFE Bet Act to combat problem gambling and deal with what he refers to as the ”public health crisis,” according to the news outlet.

SAFE Bet Act Proposal:

Referring to the scandal with the Japanese interpreter, Tonko told the source: “The widespread legalization and promotion of sports gambling will only make this type of incident more common moving forward. We have an obligation to address the predatory practices of this industry and protect consumers, which precisely what my SAFE Bet Act aims to do.”

As reported, the act is designed to introduce rules on advertising, money deposits and the use of artificial intelligence in sports betting operations.

The American Gaming Association (AGA) reportedly referred to Ohtani’s case to say that the lawmakers should focus on illegal gambling operations. AGA spokesperson Cait DeBaun stated: “It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the pervasive illegal market persists and continues to prey on Americans. This only reinforces the need for federal action on illegal gambling operations that target vulnerable Americans, steal tax dollars from communities, and undermine the regulated marketplace. We commend Congress for calling on the Department of Justice to investigate and enforce the law,” NBC News reports.

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Proliferation of Gambling Operations and Problem Gambling:

Indeed, the Ohtani case involves illegal gambling but also gambling addiction issues raising lawmakers’ concerns in the circumstances of the proliferation of legalized sports wagering operations in the States, as well as their almost instant availability and exceptionally strong advertising activities. Since 2018, when the US Supreme Court legalized sports wagering, these operations have expanded across 37 US states and counting. As reported, some athletes have recently said that gambling ”has gone too far” as they had even been subject to threats from gamblers.

GRIT Act Proposal:

Lawmakers Paul Tonko and Richard Blumenthal share these concerns. Tonko’s SAFE Bet Act proposal couples with Blumenthal’s Gambling Addiction Recovery and Treatment (GRIT) Act in an attempt to prevent sports betting companies from targeting problem gamblers, requesting them to fund gambling addiction programs and studies. Blumenthal told the source:“Any high-profile instance of gambling addiction serves as an urgent reminder, and warning sign, of the problems that come with gambling. But more concerning to me is the silent epidemic of addiction that is hitting everyday Americans, especially young people, harder and harder as gambling becomes more prevalent in our society.”

He also said that gambling companies must ” recognize their responsibility” to avoid problem gambling issues and invest in treatment programs “before the problem balloons even more,” NBC News reports. The same source reports that Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, supported the proposal saying that “the opportunity is ripe for passing a smart bill like the GRIT Act.”

AGA Claims Highly Regulated Gambling Operations:

As Paul Tonko and Richard Blumenthal are pushing bills to reduce problem gambling and impose problem gambling funding liability to the sports betting industry,  AGA spokesperson Cait De Baun reportedly claims that that the industry is highly regulated and that AGA ”meets and exceeds those standards to protect consumers” with 5,000 regulators installed nationwide.

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However, some states have reported an increased number of calls to their addiction hotlines, such as Florida, NBC News reports. The news media cites industry critic Ben Krauss to report that a total of $220 billion has been wagered i hot646 n legal sports betting facilities since 2018. The same period has seen a 22% handle increase each year. ”And with all that easily accessible gambling, addictions have increased,” Krauss reportedly said.