Rep. Dina Titus Puts Sports Betting Excise Tax Repeal On Her ‘Wish List’

Written By Derek Helling on March 26, 2021

One of Rep. Dina Titus’s pet causes as a member of Congress is to repeal the federal excise tax on sports betting handle. On Tuesday, she got to share some info about her cause with other members of Congress.

Speaking during the US House’s Ways and Means Committee’s “Members’ Day,” the Democrat representing Nevada’s 1st Congressional District made her thoughts known. NV sportsbook operators will likely get behind her reasoning.

Titus’ championing of an excise tax repeal

The US House Ways and Means Committee is Congress’ primary tax-writing group. Bills that deal with creating, modifying, or repealing parts of the federal tax code go through this group, which has seven subcommittees.

Titus is just one of over 40 members of the committee. On Tuesday, each of them had a few minutes to state their priorities for the current legislative session.

Titus spoke about raising a cap on bonds for private activity. She said it would help the implementation of a high-speed rail line running from Los Angeles To Las Vegas.

Then, she used the rest of her time to do another type of railing. Titus criticized the current 0.25% tax on sports betting revenue. Her chief criticisms were the tax hindering economic recovery for legal gambling companies and giving illegal operators an advantage.

“Enacted in 1951, this tax was directed towards going after illegal gaming, but it’s only applied to wagers that are cast in the United States, not abroad and so the vast majority of illegal gaming does take place abroad, over the Internet, unfortunately. So while the handle tax was designed to punish illegal gaming operators, because of the way the industry has evolved, it now awards them to our detriment. Annual revenue from legal sports betting in 2020 only made up 8% of the revenue from offshore sites and unregulated operators. Because of this, we believe the handle tax should be eliminated.”

Will other members of the committee join Titus’ cause here? That remains to be seen. There could be some momentum toward a repeal moving forward.

Could the tax be a thing of the past soon?

This isn’t the first time Titus has pushed on this issue. As a matter of fact, Titus tried this last year. In her role as co-chair of the US House’s Congressional Gaming Congress, Titus introduced a repeal of the tax last July.

The bill failed to gain traction. Titus obviously hasn’t lost her determination to see this happen, though.

There are reasons for optimism. Titus’ 2020 attempt was her first that had a Republican co-sponsor. Additionally, groups like the American Gaming Association (AGA) have given her ammunition to prove that bettors in the US prefer using regulated sportsbooks.

Of course, then there’s the fact that Titus’ party holds a majority in both chambers of Congress. That also wasn’t true in either of her earlier attempts.

Now that Titus has made her intentions clear, it’s time to start the work of drafting legislation. It’s unclear whether she will attempt this as a standalone bill or part of a larger tax code modification.

Other members of the committee suggested things like a new carbon tax and a repeal of the deductibility limit. It’s possible that a repeal of the sports betting excise tax may stand a better chance as part of a larger framework.

Regardless of how it happens, sportsbook operators around the country would love to see Titus succeed. A successful repeal would also be the fulfillment of a task that Titus has long labored for.

Photo by AP / Carolyn Kaster
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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