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Supreme Court makes legal sports gambling a reality

May 14. 2018 is a day that will be near and dear to the hearts of many sports gamblers across this country as that is the day that the Supreme Court struck down the ban on sports betting and allowed New Jersey to become the second state after Nevada to allow sports wagering.  The justices ruled 7-2 that the 1992 Professional Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was unconstitutional.  PASPA was commonly referred to as the Bradley Bill after its chief architect, former NBA player, and 3-time US Senator Bill Bradley.  Bradley has stated in the past that “betting on sports was betting on human beings, and I thought that was wrong”.

But the Supreme Court disagreed with Bradley and the majority decision was written by New Jersey native Justice Samuel Alito “The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make. Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each state is free to act on its own. Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PASPA is not.”  You can read the entire Supreme Court case here.

It is estimated by the American Gaming Association that illegal sports wagering in the United States has grown into a 150 billion dollar industry and in 2017 4.8 billion was wagered at Nevada sportsbooks.  Opening up legal sports wagering to people outside of Nevada is a huge potential revenue stream for states since most of the wagering that happens in this country is through online sportsbooks located outside the US.

The Legal Argument

This all comes down to federalism and the 10th amendment.  The 10th Amendment states that if the Constitution does not specifically grant a power to the federal government or take a power away from a state then the people of that state are free to decide for themselves.  With this ruling now states are free to decide on their own if they want to adopt legalized sports gambling.  But this ruling also will open the door for more states rights on other issues as well.

But this is not a legal blog and if you’re interested in reading more about anti-commandeering doctrine, then read this post from the SCOTUS blog about the decision today.

What Happens Now?

Each state can vote and the residents of that state can decide if they want to have sports betting legal in their state.  And not every state will have the same just as lottery and alcohol rules vary state by state.

This could cause some issues as the rules can vary from state to state.  Let’s look down the road a year and a half to the holidays and say you live in Massachusets, where sports betting has become legal, and you travel down to Texas to spend Christmas with the in-laws, where it has not been voted in as legal by the residents of the Lone Star state.  So you have the Caesars app you use back home but now you can’t use the app to bet in the bowl games since you are in Texas.  You also cant get online and bet since the IP address is in Texas.  IF you are in Vegas right now you can download the app for the sportsbook where you are betting and freely bet without having to go to the window at the sportsbook.  But as soon as you get on that plane to go back home and leave Nevada, that app won’t work anymore.  This is how I could see it playing out with states having different rules.

I would love to see the federal government weigh in and make it legal across the entire country.  I am not alone as NBA commissioner Adam Silver provided his stance in a statement “We remain in favor of a federal framework that would provide a uniform approach to sports gambling in states that choose to permit it, but we will remain active in ongoing discussions with state legislatures” But the ruling today was definitely a step in the right direction.

What States Will Be First In Line?

44 states have lotteries and before the Supreme Court ruling, a research firm estimated that 32 states would offer sports gambling within 5 years of a ruling by the court striking down PASPA as unconstitutional.  The first wave of states to adopt legal sports betting will most likely be Delaware, Connecticut, Iowa, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia will be

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