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Supreme Court Strikes Down Federal Law That Banned Sports Gambling

Supreme Court Strikes Down Federal Law That Banned Sports Gambling

“Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each State is free to act on its own.”

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to strike down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA) that outlawed sports gambling in most states.

From Fox News:

The 1992 law had barred gambling on football, basketball, baseball and other sports with some exceptions, like allowing people to wager on a single game only in Nevada. The Supreme Court ruling now gives states the go-ahead to legalize sports betting if they want.

“The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make,” the opinion by Justice Samuel Alito said.

“Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each State is free to act on its own. Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PASPA is not,” the ruling said.

One research firm estimated before the ruling that if the Supreme Court were to strike down the law, 32 states would likely offer sports betting within five years.

PAPSA “bars state-authorized sports gambling with exceptions for Nevada, Montana, Oregon and Delaware, states that had approved some form of sports wagering before the law took effect.”

The originated in New Jersey after “casinos in Atlantic City” started to lose revenue. In 2011, voters in the state “amended its state Constitution to allow sports betting, and the state Legislature soon passed a law authorizing it.” The major sports leagues retaliated and challenged the law.

New Jersey tried again in 2014 when the state partly repealed “its existing bans on sports betting to allow it at racetracks and casinos.” The leagues sued the state again and won.

Over a dozen states showed support for New Jersey. They “argued that Congress exceeded its authority when it passed” PAPSA and that while “the Constitution allows Congress to pass laws barring wagering on sports,” legislators “can’t require states to keep sports gambling prohibitions in place.”

The NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA urged the Supreme Court to uphold the federal law. The leagues believe “that New Jersey’s gambling expansion would hurt the integrity of their games.”

Like people really care about a law that prohibits them from gambling. After all, the American Gaming Association (AGA) has estimated that citizens “illegally wager about $150 billion on sports each year.” Other analysts believe that if sports betting expanded and became legal the “industry could generate at least $7 billion annually.”

The AGA released this statement on the ruling:

“Today’s decision is a victory for the millions of Americans who seek to bet on sports in a safe and regulated manner. According to a Washington Post survey, a solid 55 percent of Americans believe it’s time to end the federal ban on sports betting. 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. 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. The AGA stands ready to work with all stakeholders – states, tribes, sports leagues, and law enforcement – to create a new regulatory environment that capitalizes on this opportunity to engage fans and boost local economies.”

Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Jonathan Wood emailed this statement:

This morning, the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) as unconstitutional. The opinion, authored by Justice Alito, is a major win for federalism. Justice Alito’s opinion explains that PASPA, which forbids states from “authorizing” or “licensing” sports betting, “unequivocally dictates what a state legislature may and may not do.” “It is as if federal officers were installed in state legislative chambers and were armed with the authority to stop legislators from voting on any offending proposals,” he continued. In a nation committed to federalism, with independent federal and state authority both answerable to the people, neither one can dictate to the other. To hold otherwise, would have undermined a key structural protection of liberty and democratic accountability. By striking down PASPA in its entirety, the Court placed a big bet on our Constitution’s system of federalism.

States will probably “move quickly to establish sports betting as a means to increase their respective coffers.” West Virginia Lottery general counsel Danielle Boyd thinks that her state could develop sports betting within 90 days of the repeal.

Other states may not have it as easy. Pennsylvania’s legislation for sports betting “requires a one-time license fee of up to $10 million, along with a tax of as much as 34% on gross receipts. AGA senior vice president of public affairs Sara Slane said actions like this “could be a non-starter for potential operators.” But with the repeal, she thinks “some states will have to go back and structure a policy that will allow operators to want to come to the state.”


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legacyrepublican | May 14, 2018 at 1:31 pm

Does this mean we could have real bets made on future Supreme Court decisions too?

Through smart, efficient regulation …

Pixie dust and unicorn farts … always good for a laugh. But it reminds us to look for what else they’re lying about.

I’m not in favor of gambling, but do think this was a good decision. That whole bit about saying All States are Equal, but some are More Equal than Others was always ridiculous.

    Milhouse in reply to Tom Servo. | May 14, 2018 at 2:27 pm

    This isn’t about some states being treated differently. Even if congress had required all states equally to ban sports gambling this decision would have been the same. Congress can ban sports gambling if it likes, and that would override all state laws that permitted it, but it can’t order states to ban it themselves. The same goes for marijuana.

The plot of The Last Boy Scout is now coming to pass.

States want the revenue.

It will be a tax on people who don’t understand Math, will effect the poor disproportionately (as Lotto already does, but…

Liberty includes the freedom to make stupid choices.

I appreciate the clarity. More please.

Albigensian | May 14, 2018 at 6:16 pm

“Like people really care about a law that prohibits them from gambling.”

Except perhaps when private losses are socialized into public expense? How much is the taxpayer going to get stuck paying for (mostly ineffective, yet often costly) treatment for opioid drug abuse?

In any case, the argument of MLB, NHL, NBA (etc.) is that the threat of sports gambling is not so much that idiot gamblers wager more than they can afford to lose (although some surely will, and especially the super-idiots chasing their losses), but that it creates incentives to bribe athletes to fix games.

Although it is refreshing to see the Court based more on sound legal reasoning than on consequentalism, emotion and politics.

    randian in reply to Albigensian. | May 15, 2018 at 2:34 am

    “it creates incentives to bribe athletes to fix games”

    I don’t see how that’s Congress’ problem. If the leagues cannot police their own ranks then they should go out of business.

filiusdextris | May 14, 2018 at 6:38 pm

I believe that on the principal issue of commandeering or not, the decision was 7-2. 6-3 was only on how to deal with the consequences.

Henry Hawkins | May 14, 2018 at 6:55 pm

I’ve got the Washington Capitals closing out the Lightning, then taking the Cup whether against Winnipeg or Vegas. Who wants a piece?

    OllBlueEyes in reply to Henry Hawkins. | May 14, 2018 at 8:57 pm

    As a hockey fan (Penguins) I hope this ruling pressures the NHL to be more forthcoming and specific in its injury reports. Make it more like the NFL, with player classifications: probable, questionable, doubtful and out.
    No more upper-body/lower-body day-to-day nonsense.

“Over a dozen states showed support for New Jersey. They “argued that Congress exceeded its authority…””

You mean like given the constraint of the Second Amendment, Congress passing the NFA, GCA etc.? Or given the Fourteenth Amendment, New Jersey passing odious gun control legislation?

OleDirtyBarrister | May 15, 2018 at 11:43 am

The advantage of betting with a local bookie is that it is all cash and there is no paper report filed with the government on winnings.

Private [illegal] bookmaking will be hard to eliminate for that reason.