Senator William Coley: “If we’re serious about problem gaming, we have to go after illegal operators”

William "Bill" Coley II, US Senator for the 4th Ohio Senate District .

(Exclusive interview).- Focus Gaming News speaks to William “Bill” Coley II, Senator for Ohio’s 4th District and a former President of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States.

With sports betting spreading across the United States, Focus Gaming News spoke to a strong political proponent of regulated gaming, the Ohio Senator William “Bill” Coley II, about his take on legislation and regulation.

The state of Ohio itself has yet to legislate for the regulation of sports betting, and Senator Coley confirmed that legislation will not make it through before elections this November, although he believes it may make the agenda in the lame duck session at the end of the year. 

He said he feared some states were being short sighted in limiting sports betting to land-based locations, and that he believed legislation needed to have a mobile aspect.

“I can’t escape the feeling that a lot of states are not being forward thinking when they get into sports betting,” he said. “Obviously it has to have a mobile application to be successful because people are mobile now.”

He said legislators needed to embrace technology and that gaming legislation needed to envisage mobile gaming both to recognise the reality of the modern market while also providing enhanced opportunities to use data to monitor consumer protection.

He said: “We can share data across state lines to fight problems on a national level. It’s a no vote for me if we don’t build that into the system.”

He added: “The experience in Europe and around the world has proven that things like geo-tracking are technologies that are ready for prime time and should be built into sports betting in any product.”

“States that have iGaming have experienced an increase in retail sales.”

William “Bill” Coley II, Ohio Senator.

He said some stakeholders still had a fear of mobile betting owing to vested interests or a lack of understanding of the technology, but said fears were unfounded, noting that mobile gaming did not appear to harm sales for land-based operators. 

“States that have moved to a mobile application in the lotto world or iGaming world have seen an increase in retail sales and increase in visits to land-based casinos,” he said.

“If you enforce the law as written, I think you’ll eradicate a lot of the problems.”

Senator William Coley II.

While a keen proponent on regulating online gaming, Senator Coley believes that whether gambling is legal or not, stronger enforcement is needed against illegal operators.

He said: “If we’re serious about problem gaming, match fixing and anti-money laundering, we have to go after the illegal operators.”

Senator Coley is a keen observer of the industry internationally, and says the US needs to learn from elsewhere. 

“In Europe and other parts of the world they’ve been doing this for decades and they’ve learned so much,” he said.

“That’s one of the reasons I enjoy going to the ICE conference every year in London. I feel like a pre-scholar because I learn so much from my colleagues around the world on the problems they encountered and that we are going to encounter one day, and how they addressed those problems.”

“We should be working with law enforcement and regulators around the world.”

Senator William Coley II.

One of the points of contention holding up the legalisation of sports betting in Ohio has reportedly been the question of which body would regulate the activity.

Senator Coley explained the quandary noting that the Casino Control Commission has the “badges and guns” but doesn’t have the money to regulate sports betting.

He said he has another bill drafted and “ready to go” to address some of the issues if there’s a wish for it in the Senate.

“Legislators hate dealing with gaming legislation.”

Senator William Coley II.

He commended Brazil’s progress looking into the legalisation of gaming and said he expected to see more development internationally in verticals such as esports.

As for recommendations to legislators elsewhere, Senator Coley said “know your people.”

He recognised that legislators disliked dealing with gaming, but said it was essential to ensure respect for the law, protections and safeguards and tax revenues for enforcement.

He said. “You do not want a situation where respect for the law does not occur. If everyone is already gambling then you’re not enforcing the law and you’re developing in your culture a disrespect for the rule of the law.” 

He added: “You have factions in the community who are totally anti-gaming and think civilisation will go to hell in a hand cart, and others who say just let everyone do what they want.

“A lot of people put it off and don’t want to deal with the legislation because they’re not going to make anyone happy. It’s something that we should do but it’s something that we’re very hesitant to do.”

Check out the full interview with Senator Coley above or on the Focus Gaming News YouTube channel. Don’t forget to subscribe!

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