The US Supreme Court has declared the federal ban on online sports betting to be unconstitutional, opening up the floodgates on a new American legal betting landscape.
On Monday, the Court released its hotly anticipated decision within the case of New Jersey vs. the 4 significant pro sports leagues, the NCAA and the US Department of Justice. By a vote of 7-2, the Court reversed the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that struck down New Jersey’s plan to permit legal wagering at Atlantic City casinos and state racetracks.
The Court’s decision declares that 1992 Expert and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) violates the US Constitution’s 10th amendment, which prevents the federal government from ‘commandeering’ the authority of state governments. The Court said PASPA “unequivocally dictates what a state legislature may or may not do.”
The majority opinion declares that “the legalization of sports gambling demands an essential policy choice, but the choice isn’t ours to make. Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects to not do so, every State is totally free to act on its personal.”
Pressure will now mount on federal legislators to come up with new legislation to impose a uniform legal sports betting environment across the country, a scenario that gambling operators and the sports leagues would infinitely favor to the dreaded ‘patchwork’ of individual state-level laws. (Although polls indicate the American public wants states, not the feds, to oversee betting.)
To date, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Mississippi are the only other states to have passed sports betting legislation, but Monday’s ruling is anticipated to renew efforts in other states to obtain around the betting gravy train ASAP.
The sports leagues may also intensify their efforts to lobby state governments concerning the leagues’ pursuit of an ‘integrity fee’ that they claim will assist offset the expected expenses of ensuring vigilance against efforts to manipulate sports outcomes. West Virginia legislators produced no allowance for this cash-grab in their legislation but discussions are underway on a situation in which the leagues would deal directly with gaming operators to ensure a fee for sports information rights for betting purposes.
Significant League Baseball, which, together with the National Basketball Association, has been among probably the most ardent advocates of integrity fees, issued a statement saying Monday’s ruling would have “profound effects” on its games. MLB added that protecting game integrity remained its “most important priority” and also the league will “continue to assistance legislation that creates air-tight coordination and partnerships between the state, the casino operators and governing bodies in sports toward that objective.”
The NCAA, which has threatened to pull championship games from states that legalized betting, issued its personal statement saying that while its legal eagles were nonetheless reviewing the ruling, it would “adjust sports wagering and championship policies to align using the path from the court.”
Interestingly, the Court’s ruling was issued just hours following the NCAA announced a ten-year cope with Genius Sports to handle college sports data for licensing purposes. Offered the pro leagues’ pursuit of exclusive betting data rights, it’s hard to not see the notoriously cash-hungry NCAA following suit.
Monday’s ruling will in no way get rid of American bettors’ patronage of internationally licensed online sports betting operators, as the combination of sports league fees and government taxes – including Pennsylvania’s ridiculous 36% tax on betting income – will force state-licensed sportsbooks to pass on these costs to the consumer.