It seems more and more likely that 2018 will provide a watershed moment with regards to sports betting in the USA. New Jersey’s governor Chris Christie is appealing the Supreme Court Bill that prevents states from allowing sports betting firms to operate on their turf. His case for tearing up the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which has prohibited gambling on sports in the vast majority of the US for best part of three decades, is a strong one, potentially spelling an end to the current stifling regulatory framework.
Many states are said to be interested in following New Jersey’s lead, which recently saw major casinos apply for online gambling permission. New York’s lawmakers are already readying their own sports betting regulation in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling, and now Kansas and Massachusetts are believed to be the latest states to lend their weight to the campaign to see PASPA thrown out as soon as possible.
The Supreme Court’s repeal process is a necessarily lengthy procedure and the arguments for and against PASPA have been going on for some time. Insiders believe that Christie’s argument that the legislation is counter to the 10th Amendment, which rules that powers not granted to the federal government must then be handed to individual states, has been met with support from the judiciary, with the Atlantic City Press writing that "the majority of justices seemed inclined to agree, based on their statements during oral arguments in December". That would naturally hand autonomy back to state-level lawmakers, paving the way for a sports betting watershed across America.
Kansas appears to be the next state ready to jump on the bandwagon should PASPA be ruled as unconstitutional, although they will have a number of hoops to jump through prior to sports bets being accepted. Their own House Bill 2533 could be the biggest blocker. This defines sports betting as "a lottery, sweepstakes or other betting, gambling or wagering scheme based, directly or indirectly, on one or more competitive games in which amateur or professional athletes participate, or are intended to participate, or on one or more performances of such athletes in such games". This runs parallel with recent movements in Pennsylvania, where they too are relaxing their sports gambling laws.
But the real issue comes in the specifics of where sports betting would be legalised:
"Any sports gambling authorized by the Kansas lottery in accordance with this act shall be conducted solely on the premises of a racetrack gaming facility and shall be managed and operated by one or more racetrack gaming facility managers."
At the time of writing, Kansas has no active racetrack facilities and hasn’t for more than a decade, and so a whole new infrastructure would need to be invested in to bring sports betting to the people: not impossible, of course, but time-consuming.
Following Kansas’ lead is Massachusetts, which is investigating its own entry point into both online and bricks-and-mortar sports betting based upon the ruling of the Supreme Court. The online aspect is interesting as this is an area which is still very much in its infancy in the US and any adoption by the Bay State or any other for that matter could kickstart a mass of activity.
State Senator Eileen Donoghue has tabled a bill that would enable online sports betting and daily fantasy sports to be discussed by a committee. She co-chaired a committee that investigated online betting last year, publishing a report suggesting that DFS should be legalised under the umbrella of ‘online gaming’. And it is that description of an online game that offers hope to those in Massachusetts aiming for a gambling resolution. “A game, including DFS, offered through the internet or through other communications technology that allows a person utilising money or currency of any kind to transmit information to (i) risk something of value, (ii) on the outcome of an event, (iii) with an opportunity to win a prize.”
That sounds exactly like the parameters that we would associate with online sports betting, so the legal framework in Massachusetts is certainly in place for gambling adoption... pending the Supreme Court’s findings, of course.