Monday, June 17, 2024

Activist Rev. Al Sharpton issues stark warning to the FTC about two gambling giants

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Civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton has written a letter to the Federal Trade Commission about what he called a “gambling duopoly” of DraftKings and FanDuel that could disproportionately impact Black Americans, including Black athletes.

In the letter, obtained by USA TODAY Sports, Sharpton writes to FTC Chair Lina Khan that the domination of the two gambling platforms threatens consumer protection in the market.

“As you are well aware, DraftKings and FanDuel dominate the online sports betting market in the United States,” Sharpton wrote. “As of September 2023, they had a combined market share of approximately 75% in mobile sports betting. Their Sports Betting Alliance (SBA), which includes fellow legacy operators BetMGM and Fanatics Sportsbook, likely controls close to 90% of the market now.

“As a civil rights advocate, I write to you because their dominance and influence have raised serious concerns about competition, fairness, and consumer protection in the market. This is especially troubling when we consider the demographic profile of their user base, with a significant portion being Black Americans.

“When a duopoly takes hold, consumers are the biggest losers, and the most vulnerable consumers − including Black Americans − bear the brunt of that harm,” Sharpton says in the letter. “Indeed, Black Americans on the whole are more likely to engage in sports betting; among young adults, they sports bet at a higher rate than any other demographic (68%). They also bet more money than any other ethnic group.”

Spokespersons from DraftKings and FanDuel could not be immediately reached for comment.

An NCAA survey from last year showed gambling is prevalent among young adults, particularly on college campuses. The survey also found that 68% of Black or African American respondents engaged in betting, which the NCAA said was the highest percentage among the demographics surveyed. The NCAA said Hispanic or Latino respondents engaged at 63%, Asian 55%, and white or Caucasian at 54%.

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“Sports are at the center of American culture,” Sharpton writes, “and Black athletes are the center of American sports. If sports betting and gaming run rampant and infiltrates the integrity of the games, that can adversely affect both Black athletes and consumers.”

What Sharpton is doing here is important and smart. Why? This industry needs more of a watchdog and the FTC needs the reminder of what its job is.

Gambling, like so many other things, has multidimensional aspects to it, and one of them, like so many other things, is about race. You can stick your head in the sand about these issues but Sharpton refuses to and that’s a good thing.

Overall, gambling remains one of the biggest moneymakers in all of sports, but also one fraught with potentially catastrophic challenges to the leagues. Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, was charged with stealing millions from the star to fuel his gambling addiction. Recently, Major League Baseball opened an investigation into a former Ohtani teammate for allegations that the teammate placed bets with an illegal bookmaker. This was the same bookmaker linked to Mizuhara.

The NBA announced last month Jontay Porter was banned from the NBA after a league investigation found Porter violated league rules by disclosing confidential information to sports bettors, limited his own participation in at least one games because of betting, and also betting on NBA games.

Sharpton is saying the risks go even beyond even those challenges, and extend to issues of race.

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“In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission filed a legal action to block the proposed merger of DraftKings and FanDuel, citing that the merger would deprive consumers of the benefits of competition in the fantasy sports market,” Sharpton wrote. “Tad Lipsky, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, added in a 2017 statement that the FTC ‘is committed to the preservation of competitive markets, which offer consumers the best opportunity to obtain innovative products and services at the most favorable prices and terms consistent with the provision of competitive returns to efficient producers.'”

“Clearly, the successful political exploits of the SBA have allowed Lipsky’s worst fears to come true,” Sharpton added. “I urge the FTC to investigate the anti-competitive behavior of the SBA and its member companies to ensure that consumers-especially Black Americans-can reap the benefits of a truly competitive market that rewards innovation, value, and consumer protection.”

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