Repeal of sports wagering handle tax reintroduced by Titus

Feb 27, 2015
In The News

February 27, 2015

Legislation that would repeal a federal handle tax on Nevada sports books was reintroduced in Congress on Friday by Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., who said the levy places an undue burden on the state’s sports book industry.

Titus introduced the measure last year, but it was not acted upon. Titus wants the bill — which could return between $9 million and $11 million annually in taxes to Nevada — included in House tax reform efforts.

“Because Nevada is the single state with fully inclusive wagering on sports, companies based in our state are the only entities paying this specific tax,” Titus said in a letter to Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., chairman of House Committee on Ways and Means, and Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., the committee’s ranking member.

“While this is a minuscule percentage of the federal budget, retaining these funds in Nevada would allow for additional job creation and innovation in the gaming industry,” Titus said.

The federal handle tax on 0.0025 percent of all sports wagers was originally intended to finance investigation of illegal sports betting, but the money is used for other purposes.

In her letter, Titus said that her office contacted the Internal Revenue service to inquire about the handle tax.

“They were unable to confirm that the funding is being used for investigations or in any way related to gaming,” Titus said.

Titus introduced the legislation last year at request of sports book operator CG Technology and its CEO Lee Amaitis, who said the money could be put to a better use in Nevada. However, the bill never found any additional congressional support.

In an interview last year, Amaitis said he was initially curious what the federal government was doing with the funds.

“It’s not that I didn’t want to pay to the tax,” Amaitis said. “I just wanted to know where the money went.”

The tax was instituted before the 1992 passage of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which defined the legal status of U.S. sports wagering. The activity is limited to Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana.

Sports wagering has been growing in Nevada. The amount bet on sports by Nevada casino customers has increased annually in each of the five previous years. In 2014, gamblers wagered $3.9 billion on sports, an increase of 7.7 percent over 2013.

Analysts credit technology, such as mobile sports wagering applications for smart phones and tablet computers, and in-game wagering, which allows customers to bet on games in progress.