You can bet on it!

Posted on May 20, 2018 in Business Litigation

This past Monday, the Supreme Court cleared the way for states to legalize sports betting, striking down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (“PASPA”), a 1992 federal law that prohibited states from authorizing sports betting. The 6 – 3 decision (which was the “over” bet as it was expected that the decision would be 5 – 4), was a victory for the State of New Jersey, which brought the action, and all other states that have introduced sports gambling legislation as a way to encourage tourism and tax revenue. In 2011, in an effort to assist the failing gambling industry in Atlantic City, New Jersey voters approved a law to legalize sports betting. That law was challenged by professional sports leagues and the NCAA, claiming that the such gambling had been banned by the 1992 federal statute. The PASPA was passed out of concern that sports gambling might change the nature of sporting events from wholesome entertainment to a device for gambling. Last week, the issue went to SCOTUS, which put an end to the legal dispute.

Writing for the majority, Justice Alito held that the federal law violated constitutional principles that limited the federal government from controlling state policies. Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Breyer dissented, criticizing the majority for using an ax to “cut down” the entire statute instead of trimming it. The decision cleared the way for all states to pass their own legislation regarding legalizing sports betting, and suddenly eliminates Nevada’s monopoly.

So that it is clear, the law does not legalize sports betting across the country. Instead, it gives states the ability to legalize and regulate sports betting as they did before PASPA.
Currently, only 7 states have legalized sports betting (Connecticut, Mississippi, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. And another 13 states have introduced legislation regulating sports betting (California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and South Carolina). Think about it, while Americans bet $4.76 billion on the Super Bowl in 2018, they only wagered 3% of that amount, legally, in Nevada.

So now what? Will Congress enact uniform federal legislation? You can bet on it! Indeed, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has already prepared a draft bill.

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