The Supreme Court struck down a federal law that prohibits sports gambling on Monday. It was a landmark decision that now gives states the right to legalize betting on sports.
The court ruled 6-3 to strike down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. It was a 1992 law that barred state-authorized sports gambling with some exceptions. It made Nevada the only state where a person could bet on the results of a single game.
States Free to Offer Legal Sports Betting
States are now free to offer legal sports betting, and New Jersey plans to be first. But Delaware, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are expected to quickly get into the legal bookmaking game as well.
The court ruled in favor of New Jersey and against NCAA, NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball. This case capped a nearly six-year legal battle and overturned a federal statute that the sports leagues had adamantly stood by for more than 20 years.
“Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each State is free to act on its own,” the court wrote its opinion. “Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PASPA is not.”
The sport leagues had been winning every step in the legal process. They first sued former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in August 2012 and won. But in June, the Supreme Court decided to take the case. Oral arguments were heard Dec. 4, and the justices ruled five months later.
Chris Christie tweeted after the favorable ruling that it was a “great day for the rights of states and their people to make their own a decisions.”
A Great Day for the Rights of States
“A great day for the rights of states and their people to make their own decisions. New Jersey citizens wanted sports gambling and the federal Gov’t had no right to tell them no. The Supreme Court agrees with us today. I am proud to have fought for the rights of the people of NJ,” tweeted the former governor.
The current governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy, also praised the ruling. He said he was “thrilled” to see the high court strike down the “arbitrary ban.” Murphy said in a statement that he looks forward to working with the legislature to “enact a law authorizing and regulating sports betting in the very near future.”
For nearly 26 years, Nevada has been the only state allowed to offer a full menu of sports betting options. A record $4.8 billion was wagered at Nevada sportsbooks in 2017.
New Jersey has a much larger population and is expecting even bigger results. Similarly, more than a dozen other states have introduced sports betting bills this year.
The NBA and the MLB did an about-face on this issue. They recently pivoted and were in favor of expanding legal sports betting. They began lobbying on the issue in several states, including Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, New York and West Virginia.
“We remain in favor of a federal framework that would provide a uniform approach to sports gambling in states that choose to permit it, but we will remain active in ongoing discussions with state legislatures,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “Regardless of the particulars of any future sports betting law, the integrity of our game remains our highest priority.”
MLB Says It Will Have a Profound Effect
MLB said in a statement that the ruling will have “profound effects” and that it will “continue to seek the proper protections for our sport, in partnership with other professional sports.”
“Our most important priority is protecting the integrity of our games,” MLB’s statement said. “We will continue to support legislation that creates air-tight coordination and partnerships between the state, the casino operators and the governing bodies in sports toward that goal.”
The NFL, NHL and NCAA, on the other hand, all sat on the sideline awaiting the ruling.
“The NFL’s long-standing and unwavering commitment to protecting the integrity of our game remains absolute,” the league said. “Congress has long-recognized the potential harms posed by sports betting to the integrity of sporting contests and the public confidence in these events. Given that history, we intend to call on Congress again, this time to enact a core regulatory framework for legalized sports betting. We also will work closely with our clubs to ensure that any state efforts that move forward in the meantime protect our fans and the integrity of our game.”
Tony Clark, the head of the Major League Baseball Players Association, called the ruling “monumental, with far-reaching implications for baseball players and the games we love.” Clark challenged that the topic be addressed “urgently and thoughtfully to avoid putting our sport’s integrity at risk as states proceed with legislation.”
U.S. Joins Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and France
The U.S. joins other jurisdictions that allow legal sports betting, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and France.
One research firm estimated before the ruling that if the Supreme Court were to strike down PASPA, 32 states would likely offer sports betting within five years. The American Gaming Association estimates that Americans illegally wager about $150 billion on sports each year.
Geoff Freeman, the president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, said that the court’s decision is “a victory for the millions of Americans who seek to bet on sports in a safe and regulated manner.”
“Today’s ruling makes it possible for states and sovereign tribal nations to give Americans what they want: an open, transparent, and responsible market for sports betting,” Freeman said. “Through smart, efficient regulation this new market will protect consumers, preserve the integrity of the games we love, empower law enforcement to fight illegal gambling, and generate new revenue for states, sporting bodies, broadcasters and many others.”