One way or the other sports betting in America is about to undergo some big changes.
On Dec. 4, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the state of New Jersey’s appeal against the constitutionality of the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, also known as PASPA. It’s being billed as a states’ rights case, as New Jersey desperately wants Atlantic City to have legal sports books. But the outcome of the case won’t impact just the Garden State. Any of the 40 states with casinos could also approve sports books for their respective gaming industries.
According to prominent gaming attorney I. Nelson Rose, the sports betting case could have far-reaching effects, including the bolstering of state-sanctioned marijuana industries.
In a recent blog post, Rose, who is based out of California, said that the gaming industry is seeking to avoid a messy decision by the high court. “I’m hoping the Court will give us a clean decision,” Rose said. “The worst result would be a ruling that New Jersey only has the right to decriminalize sports betting, but not regulate it. Other states would follow, with some truly weird statutes eliminating laws against sports betting, and who knows what else.”
The Supreme Court is expected to make its decision between April and June of next year.
New Jersey unsuccessfully tried to circumvent PASPA by attempting to strip state laws and regulations that made sports books at its racetracks and casinos illegal. That didn’t work because the leagues and the NCAA fought back, decrying the supposed threats to game integrity. The leagues appear open to a nationwide sports betting roll-out of some kind, rather than a state-by-state patchwork. According to former MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent, the leagues and their respective franchises have long been preparing for a change to PASPA.
According to Rose, PASPA’s days are numbered even if the appeal goes south. There are also efforts in Congress to repeal and replace the sports betting law.
“Even if New Jersey loses, PASPA is toast,” Rose said. “The law was passed in 1992, when there was no World Wide Web, let alone internet gambling, daily fantasy sports or eSports. States and gaming operators will see that they can create coalitions in Congress on the state’s right issue of letting states make their own decisions about gambling.”
The American Gaming Association estimates that $150 billion is bet on sports each year in the U.S., with only a tiny fraction of the handle coming through regulated Nevada sports books. Delaware also has sports betting, but the wagers are limited to parlays.