Place Your Bets

The United States Supreme Court finally decided the case of Murphy v. NCAA, better-known as the sports-betting case (which I previously wrote about here). As I expected (and hoped), the Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA), a law which prohibited states from legalizing sports betting. It was a good decision for a bad law. Gaming laws are mostly the domain of states--for example, states license their own casinos and lotteries. Nevada licenses sports books. In 1992, Congress passed and Pres. Bush (41) signed PAPSA, which prohibited states from legalizing sports betting. States that had already legalized it were allowed to keep their laws. 

Recently, New Jersey decided it wanted to legalize sports betting. PAPSA however stood in its way. When the state did it anyway, by repealing its ban on gambling, the NCAA and pro sports leagues sued. They won at the district and appellate levels in federal court before New Jersey petitioned for cert. to the Supreme Court. In a 7-2 decision, with justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg dissenting (Breyer joined part of the dissent but otherwise signed onto the majority decision), the Court struck down the law, holding that it violated the anti-commandeering principle by intruding on states' authority. 

So what does this all mean? It does not simply mean that sports betting is now legal. It means that states can now decide to legalize it. Connecticut seems to be already on it, with the legislature having authorized the regulation of sports betting last year and Gov. Mallow considering calling a special session of legislature this summer to act on it. 

The decision stopped short of saying that Congress cannot ban or otherwise regulate sports betting, leaving open the possibility that it can come up with another law. It is unlikely that this Congress will pass such a law. This Supreme Court, based on its previous decisions on the Commerce Clause, would probably only uphold narrow regulation, such as that on interstate Internet gambling. 

Legal sports betting offers a new revenue stream for states and also brings an underground activity above-ground where it can be properly regulated to take power away from criminal enterprises. There will be more legislation and probably litigation but the biggest hurdle has been lifted. Some states will legalize it and others probably won't. New Jersey is already in the lead and Connecticut is a strong favorite. 


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