The United States Supreme Court today struck down a law that outlawed sports gambling in nearly every state. The ruling will result in legalized gambling all over the United States. You can read the decision here.
The law was known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA). Only Nevada — which had legal sports gambling before its passage and was grandfathered in — was exempt. The State of New Jersey wanted to legalize sports gambling too and challenged it as unconstitutional, bringing suit in 2009. The lawsuit claimed, among other things, that PASPA unconstitutionally discriminated among the states. While I have not read the Supreme Court’s decision on this yet, that claim is pretty facially compelling, as is the argument that regulation of gambling is a state matter pursuant to the Tenth Amendment. I’m not a big fan of gambling, and I rarely agree with the current court’s view of things, but PASPA always felt like Federal overreach to me. The decision is not surprising and, I suspect correct on the merits in an absolute sense.
What this means now: all states who want to offer legalized sports gambling to the public will pass laws allowing that to happen one way or another. As we’ve noted here several times in recent months, that effort has long been underway, complicated in part by a frankly ridiculous lobbying effort by the sports leagues, including Major League Baseball. While at first they opposed legalized sports betting, in the past year or so it has dawned on them that they can maybe make some money off of this, so they’ve been pressuring states to give them a cut of the action. As of yet no state has agreed to do so because, um, what possible basis does Rob Manfred and the other commissioners have to claim that cut? My discussion of that can be read here, here and here.
Obviously there is and long has been an illegal sports gambling industry, greatly facilitated by the Internet and offshore businesses running the book. That will no doubt continue, if for no other reason, than any state regulated gambling operation will involve hoops, regulations and costs that make black market options desirable. If you’re betting on 15 games a day, you probably already have plenty of options. For those who find themselves in casinos or race tracks from time to time, however, and simply want to place a bet here or there, you’ll soon be able to do so without traveling to Nevada.