US Sports Betting Decision Drawing Ever CloserApril 30, 2018 9:32 am
Sport bettors in the US are eagerly awaiting a Supreme Court decision on New Jersey’s legal challenge to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992, which if successful will lead to an expansion of sports betting across the country. The battle first reached the lower courts in 2012, and after simmering there for several years the highest federal court of the United States finally agreed to hear an oral argument on the issue on December 4th 2017.
With a decision expected sometime between now and the end of June, many states have already introduced legislation that would enable them to quickly launch their own sports betting operations in the event of a positive ruling. That day would also mark a milestone in the country’s gambling industry, with its impact felt at casinos and racetracks across the USA, and having the potential to inspire individual states to expand further into the realm of online gambling, especially if sports betting online is permitted.
PASPA, also known as the Bradley Act after its lead sponsor, made it illegal for states to “sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license, or authorize by law or compact” any sports wagering activities, with just Nevada, Oregon, Delaware and Montana exempted from the act.
In 2012, however, New Jersey passed a law legalizing sports wagering, which soon received a swift response from major sports leagues such as the NCAA, NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL, who subsequently filed a lawsuit preventing New Jersey from implementing its legislation. In 2013, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision in favor of the professional leagues, and after New Jersey simply repealed state criminal laws that prohibited sports book operations, more legal action by sports leagues saw the Third Circuit Court of Appeals once gain rule in their favor.
Unlike the previous occasion, though, the U.S. Supreme Court finally agreed to review the case, with oral arguments being heard on December 4, 2017. While the initial lawsuit filed in 2012 was known as Christie v. NCAA, Governor Chris Christie left office in 2018, and was replaced by Phil Murphy, with the legal case now known as Murphy v. NCAA.
Of course, if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the sports leagues then sports wagering will remain blocked outside of the four states already mentioned. If, on the other hand, PASPA is declared unconstitutional, states and Indian tribes would no longer be forbidden from offering sports wagering, although a more specific exception for New Jersey could also be made allowing only that state to permit sports wagering on a limited basis, such as just at casinos and racetracks.
Murphy v. NCAA has implications far beyond the potential legislation of sports betting, with a positive outcome having the potential to help strengthen individual states rights, and affect a range of other disputed areas, including marijuana legalization, the protection of undocumented immigrants, and even gun control.
In case of the best possible outcome, US sports leagues will have to come to grips with a new reality in which tribal and commercial casinos in individual states will be able to start offering their own sports betting products, with 20 states having already prepared legislation for the occasion. As pointed out on a Bloomberg article written by Christopher Palmeri last month:
“If the casino industry gets its way, this could be the last March Madness where Americans have to go to Nevada to bet legally on the college basketball championship.. If the court gives the go-ahead, it could start a chain reaction of states approving such wagers in casinos and online.”
Online poker players will also have some skin in the game because if the Supreme Court decides sports betting can take place safely on the internet, then this would eliminate many of the security concerns previously made against the industry. The way will subsequently be paved for online poker and casino bills to be included in the preliminary sports betting legislation already introduced by numerous states around the US.