Sports Betting Is Now Legal, Supreme Court Rules, In A Blow To Professional And Amateur Sports Leagues

Some fear the move opens the door to corruption in sports.

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Sports betting cannot be outlawed by the federal government, the Supreme Court ruled Monday, handing a victory to New Jersey lawmakers who have been hoping to collect taxes from the practice.

As Yahoo News reports, in a 7-2 decision in the case of Murphy v. NCAA, the Court ruled 1992’s PASPA law (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) was unconstitutional. That decision paves the way for the 50 states to legalizing betting on sports, although that doesn’t necessarily mean that all 50 will.

The Original Law And How It Got To The SCOTUS

In 1992, the Bush administration passed the Bradley Act, or PASPA, effectively banning the practice of placing bets on the outcome of sporting events, both professional and amateur. The law exempted Nevada and three other states (none of them New Jersey) from the act, allowing the thriving sports-book industry in Las Vegas to continue and flourish.

In 2009, New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, claiming that PASPA unconstitutionally discriminated against New Jersey and the other 46 states left out of the act by allowing online sports betting in some states but not others. Then, in 2012, the four major professional U.S. sports leagues, plus the NCAA, filed suit against New Jersey for effectively ignoring PASPA and allowing online sports betting in the Garden State.

What Does The Decision Mean?

In New Jersey, the decision means that Atlantic City Casinos can now move forward with their sports books, according to SB Nation.

As for the other 50 states, however, the matter is less clear. Five other states – Mississippi, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Connecticut – have already passed laws allowing sports betting in their states. Those laws now have Supreme Court approval, and legal sports books will likely pop up in those states soon.

Sports bettors in the remaining states will have to wait for their state legislatures to pass such laws. A handful, including Missouri, Iowa, Kentucky, and Illinois, currently have such legislation pending, but no official laws just yet, according to ESPN.

The Arguments For And Against Sports Betting

Supporters of legal sports betting claim that legalizing the practice allows states to collect tax money on an existing black market. For example, that $5 you bet on your NCAA office pool last March was technically an act of illegal sports betting; with the practice now legal, you could bet that $5 at a casino near you, for a much higher return and with the state now being able to collect taxes on the bet.

Conversely, as Yahoo Sports writer Ben Rohrbach writes, sports gambling is inherently addictive. What’s more, he says, opponents of the practice argue that it will open the door to corruption on the playing field – for example, by enabling betting syndicates to pay off teams or players to throw games.