Supreme Court lets states legalize sports betting in historic 6-3 decision
Monday's U.S. Supreme Court decision opened the door to the possibility of nationwide sports gambling.
The Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a law passed in 1992 that banned state-authorized sports gambling with limited exceptions.
Here are a few questions about what comes next:
Can I bet on games now?
No. (Unless you're in Nevada).
Depending on where you live, you may never be able to legally wager on a sporting event.
It will be up to the states to act — and decide if, when, where and how they want to allow gambling on sports.
Which states will act first?
Five states — including New Jersey, which challenged the law the Supreme Court struck down — have already passed laws to deal with sports gambling in case the Supreme Court reached the sort of decision it issued Monday, putting them in position to act quickly to deal with the change.
In addition to New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Mississippi have already passed legislation, according to ESPN.
New Jersey is expected to be the first to move and enact laws to turn the court's decision into reality. Connecticut's governor announced Monday that he was considering calling a special session of the legislature to consider legalizing sports betting in the state.
ESPN ranked the states most likely to move the fastest (New Jersey, Delaware) and the slowest (Utah).
Another 14 states have had legislation introduced to deal with the issue. They include California, Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois and South Carolina.
In South Carolina, lawmakers proposed in 2017 to amend the state constitution to allow betting on professional sports.
"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," the majority of the Supreme Court said in its decision.
"A great day for the rights of states and their people to make their own decisions. New Jersey citizens wanted sports gambling and the federal government had no right to tell them no. The Supreme Court agrees with us today. I am proud to have fought for the rights of the people of (New Jersey)," former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie tweeted on Monday morning.
States could allow sports gambling at casinos or race tracks, as New Jersey plans to do, or they could decide to open it up to other locations. In England, there are betting shops where customers can place their wagers.
The Court's decision did leave room for Congress to act. Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah and one of the original author's of the law the Court struck down, said he plans to introduce legislation to "protect honesty and principle in the athletic arena."
"The problems posted by sports betting are much the same as they were 25 years ago," Hatch said in a statement. "But the rapid rise of the Internet means that sports betting across state lines is just a click away. We cannot allow this practice to proliferate amid uneven enforcement and a patchwork race to the regulatory bottom. At stake here is the very integrity of sports."
I thought you could bet in Nevada, right?
Nevada was the only state where someone could gamble on the results of an individual game.
In 2017, $4.87 billion was wagered on sports in Nevada. The sports books made a record $248.8 million in revenue.
Getting a piece of that revenue is one of the reasons New Jersey wanted in on the action.
What do the pro leagues say?
For years, the major professional sports leagues and the NCAA had fought against allowing sports gambling. But in recent years, the leagues starts to soften their stance. The National Basketball Association, in particular, led the way in supporting sports gambling, but was also looking for a cut of each wager.
"We remain in favor of a federal framework that would provide a uniform approach to sports gambling in states that choose to permit it, but we will remain active in ongoing discussions with state legislatures," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said.
The National Hockey League, in a statement, said: "“The Supreme Court’s decision today paves the way to an entirely different landscape – one in which we have not previously operated. We will review our current practices and policies and decide whether adjustments are needed, and if so, what those adjustments will look like."
The NFL, which is the most popular sport to bet in Nevada, called on Congress to get involved.
"Congress has long-recognized the potential harms posted by sports betting to the integrity of sporting contests and the public confidence in these events. Given that history, we intend to call on Congress again, this time to enact a core regulatory framework for legalized sports betting," the NFL said in a statement.
What about colleges?
The Atlantic Coast Conference, like others, adopted a wait-and-see approach.
"The ACC footprint includes 10 states, and we will wait to see what plays out within each. We will discuss with our membership and determine how we proceed," the league said in a statement.
The NCAA has refused to hold championships in Nevada due to sports gambling, though that could change soon after Monday's ruling. Individual conferences, like the Pacific 12 and the Mountain West, have held championship events in the state, and this season an NHL team began play in Las Vegas.
"While we are still reviewing the decision to understand the overall implications to college sports, we will adjust sports wagering and championship policies to align with the direction from the court," said Donald Remy, the NCAA's chief legal officer.
What states might not move as quickly?
While some states rush to embrace sports gambling, other states are likely to sit it out. A North Carolina House panel defeated a measure that would have regulated fantasy sports in 2017. Six states do not sponsor the lottery. Utah, one of those states, prohibits gambling in its constitution.
"Opponents contend that legalizing sports gambling will hook the young on gambling, encourage people of modest means to squander their savings and earnings, and corrupt professional and college sports," the Court's majority wrote.
Hatch and others are worried about the integrity of the games.
A boon for sports owners?
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said the decision could double the value of each team in the nation's four major sports — NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball.
Ted Leonsis, who owns the NHL's Washington Capitals and the NBA's Washington Wizards, called it "a new frontier."
"I don’t claim to know all of those answers today, but what I do know is that this is a new frontier for professional sports and teams who don’t seize on this opportunity will be left behind. As millennials and Gen Z continue to embrace the second screen, it’s not hard to imagine in the near future fans on their devices analyzing data, placing bets and communicating with each other in real time during games," he said in a statement. "Legalized sports betting will only bring fans closer to the game, ramping up the action in each minute and creating more intensity. It will bring new revenue into the economy, creating jobs and growing our tax base. Today’s decision is a great one for sports fans and I am eager to embrace it."