Washington D.C., USA: The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed all states to legalize sports gambling ruling on Monday that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, PASPA, a 1992 federal law that barred states from legalizing sports gambling, violates the U.S. Constitution. That ruling came on a New Jersey case born out of the state’s efforts in 2014 to repeal a sports betting ban, allowing the state to regulate such behavior.
PASPA prohibited sports betting, except in four states where it had already been legalized — Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon. It gave the other states one year to legalize such betting, if they wanted to.
“Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each State is free to act on its own,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority. “Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PASPA is not.”
“PASPA ‘regulates state governments’ regulation’ of their citizens. The Constitution gives Congress no such power.”
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.
Advocates say sports betting would be an economic boon for states that don’t currently allow it. Opponents fret that sports gambling could draw young people into a practice some view as immoral.
The court ruling’s Monday marks a major defeat for the NCAA, NBA, NHL and NFL, which had urged the court to uphold the law.
They argued that while Congress recognized the potential source of revenue sports betting would create, it decided “the risk to the reputation of one of our nation’s most popular pastimes – professional and amateur sporting events – is not worth it.”
The court ruling handed former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) a major win to bolster his legacy.
New Jersey has been fighting since 2010 to make sports wagering legal at racetracks and casinos in the state, but had repeatedly been blocked by the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992.
Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) was quick to hail the court’s ruling as a win for New Jersey and the rest of the country.
“PASPA was clearly unconstitutional, and the ban on sports betting has now rightfully been rejected by the court,” he said. “I have long believed that New Jersey should have the opportunity to proceed with sports betting.”
Pallone called on Congress to move legislation he offered last year to legalize sports betting and online gambling if consumer protections are in place.
He said his bill, known as the GAME Act, would provide states with the legal framework to adopt sports betting at their discretion.
The PASPA ban was known as the Bradley Act, after its chief promoter, former basketball great Bill Bradley, who served three terms in the U.S. Senate.
Enacted 25 years ago, the law prohibited states from legalizing sports betting sports except where it was already legal.
PASPA did not itself ban sports betting. Instead it prevented states from legalizing sports betting.
Lawyers for New Jersey argued that the law forces state governments to enforce a federal initiative, which the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled is unconstitutional.
Lawyers for the sports leagues said that the federal law is not forcing states to do anything, but rather telling them what not to do, which wouldn’t violate the Constitution.
The American Gaming Association estimates that illegal sports betting has grown to $150-billion-a-year market. And cash-starved states are salivating at the thought of raising billions from legalizing and licensing that activity, not to mention taxing the proceeds.
Then there’s the popularity of daily fantasy sports — an industry that has weathered legal challenges of its own.
Texas state law currently prohibits sports gambling, and state leaders have shown resistance in the past to changing it.