On Monday, May 14, 2018, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to strike down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was a federal law that barred state-authorized sports gambling outside of Nevada (with a few exceptions). In striking this law down, the Supreme Court is granting states the power to determine if sports wagering will be permitted within the state.
New Jersey, a state with long history of ties to the gambling and gaming industry, was a major player in contending this law. New Jersey has long wanted to allow legal sports betting within the state, and under former Governor Chris Christie, began the process of challenging this law five (5) years ago. Current New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy appears to be in support of the decision and has indicated he take steps toward implementing laws that will allow for legal sports betting. It is anticipated that Delaware, New York, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to follow suit, and become early adopters of legal sports wagering laws. This is a major decision in favor of state’s rights, and may indicate a shift towards allowing states to make determinations on more controversial federal laws.
Before supporters of sports wagering get excited, it should be known that this decision will not come without complications. The NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL and other major sporting leagues have been, and plan to continue to be, heavily involved in the legislation process with the states as they aim to protect the integrity of their respective sports. The NBA has shifted views and is in favor of the ruling, but according to commissioner Adam Silver, “will remain active in ongoing discussions with state legislatures”. The NFL has their concerns, and the league said “we intend to call on Congress again, this time to enact a core regulatory framework for legalized sports betting.”
The body of law surrounding sports betting will surely evolve over the coming years. Legalized sports betting has the ability to become a major industry in many states; case in point – $4.8 Billion was wagered in Nevada in 2017. The legalization of this market could open the door to both opportunity and legal challenges. We will continue to monitor this ruling as the states take steps to enact laws allowing for sports betting.