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U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Federal Ban On Sports Gambling

May 14, 2018
States that choose to allow sports wagering will now be allowed to do so.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a sweeping 6-3 decision in favor of New Jersey in that state's court case against America's largest sports organizations, essentially laid waste to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.  

Commonly referred to as PASPA, the 1992 law banned the vast majority of states from allowing sports wagering while grandfathering a handful of states that had already allowed sports betting, most notably Nevada.

The 1992 law was not a direct prohibition of sports wagering by Congress. Instead, it simply did not permit states "to sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license, or authorize by law or compact" sports betting.

In striking down PASPA, the Supreme Court wrote:

"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."

Every bit of PASPA was struck down in the Supreme Court's 31-page decision.

For years, New Jersey has tried various legal routes to have sports betting in its casinos and racetracks. Opposing those efforts have been the NCAA, NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL. The Supreme Court's decision in the case called Murphy vs. NCAA ended a years-long legal battle May 14.

The dissenting justices in the Supreme Court decision were Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Sonia Sotomayor.  Justice Stephen Breyer was a partial dissent.

New Jersey casino and racetracks have been champing at the bit to have full-fledged sports gambling and the most immediate impact will probably be felt there, where two new major casino openings are scheduled for next month in Atlantic City. 

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino (formerly the Trump Taj Mahal) and the Ocean Resort Casino (formerly Revel) have undergone major renovations and both open June 28. Monmouth Park Racetrack in the northern part of the state has been particularly eager to begin sports betting. A $2 million sports bar there is expected to be quickly converted to a William Hill sports book.

In Maryland, things are not likely to unfold quite as quickly.

Major expansions of gambling in Maryland must be approved in a statewide referendum. Before that can happen, the state legislature must pass and the governor must approve legislation that puts a referendum on the ballot.

In the most recent regular session of the Maryland General Assembly, the House of Delegates passed a bill that would have put sports wagering on the November ballot but the State Senate failed to act. Barring a special session to take up the issue soon, it would appear the next time such a referendum could appear on a statewide ballot would be 2020.

Meanwhile, a number of other states appear poised to take advantage of the new latitude granted them by the Supreme Court including West Virginia, Pennsylvania and possibly Delaware, where casinos already offer parlay betting on NFL games.

Photo Credit: Ed Sheahin/PressBox