Supreme Court strikes down sports betting law
The Supreme Court struck down a federal law that prohibits sports gambling Monday in a landmark decision that gives states the go-ahead to legalize betting on sports.
The court ruled to strike down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA), a 1992 law that barred state-authorized sports gambling with some exceptions. It made Nevada the only state where a person could wager on the results of a single game.
States that want to offer legal sports betting may now do so, and New Jersey plans to be first. Delaware, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are among the states expected to quickly get into the legal bookmaking game.
The court ruled in favor of New Jersey and against the NCAA, NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball, capping a nearly six-year legal battle and overturning a federal statute that the sports leagues had adamantly stood by for more than 20 years.
“Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each State is free to act on its own,” the court wrote its opinion. “Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PAPSA is not.”
The leagues first sued former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in August 2012 and won every step of the way — until last June, when the Supreme Court decided to take the case. Oral arguments were heard on Dec. 4, and the justices ruled five months later.
The impact will be widespread. For nearly 26 years, Nevada has been the only state allowed to offer a full menu of sports betting options. A record $4.8 billion was wagered at Nevada sportsbooks in 2017.
New Jersey, with its much larger population, is expecting even bigger things. So are other states, with more than a dozen having introduced sports betting bills this year.
As the case played out over the past six years, the NBA and MLB pivoted their position on expanding legal sports betting and began lobbying on the issue in several states, including Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, New York and West Virginia.
The NFL, NHL and NCAA, on the other hand, have sat on the sideline awaiting the ruling.
The U.S. joins other jurisdictions that allow legal sports betting, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, France and many others.
To start, it’s likely bets will have to be placed at brick-and-mortar establishments, but states are making plans to offer mobile sports betting in the future.
One research firm estimated before the ruling that if the Supreme Court were to strike down PAPSA, 32 states would likely offer sports betting within five years.
ESPN’s Ryan Rodenberg and The Associated Press contributed to this report.