House Bill Would End Excise Tax on Sports Betting

A bill filed in the U.S. House of Representatives by Nevada Congresswoman Dina Titus (l.) seeks to end the 1950s era federal excise tax on sports wagers. The law was originally enacted in an effort to battle illegal gambling. Sponsors say it’s now outdated.

A bipartisan bill introduced in the House of Representatives, would end the 0.25 percent federal excise tax on sports wagers.

The tax, aka “handle tax” was passed in the 1950s as an effort to fight illegal gambling, but sponsors, Rep. Dina Titus and Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, note that the only ones paying the tax today are legal operators. Titus’s district includes Las Vegas.

This is the second time they have filed this bill. Last year it didn’t get a hearing. However, this year, nearly half the states allow sportsbooks, while 16 others have pending legislation that would address it.

Titus commented, “As more states recognize the benefits of legalizing and regulating sports betting, repealing the handle tax will create jobs in Southern Nevada and across the country.” She has been seeking such a change in the law for seven years, long before sports betting began its inexorable march across the U.S. continent.

Reschenthaler added, “The industry is hindered by an outdated tax code and burdensome regulations that penalize legal, regulated operators while providing illegal operations with an unfair advantage.” He argues that his bill will help support “good paying jobs” in southwestern Pennsylvania, which he represents.

The two lawmakers note that the law already exempts some forms of sports betting from the tax, including state lotteries and betting on horseracing.

American Gaming Association CEO Bill Miller issued a statement supporting the bill, “While the federal excise tax’s original purpose was to punish illegal operators, this antiquated tax now aids the offshore, illegal market and disadvantages safe, legal and regulated sportsbooks nationwide.”

Miller added, “If Congress wants to position the legal sports betting market for success, it needs to eradicate this unnecessarily burdensome tax to level the playing field for legal sportsbooks.”