The June announcement that the United States Supreme Court would hear the state of New Jersey’s argument seeking to legalize sports betting sent shockwaves throughout the gambling industry, as many experts feel confident that the court is likely to rule in the Garden State’s favor.
When a December date was set for the hearing, many in the gambling world could finally see a light at the end of the tunnel in the form of a potential repeal of 1992’s Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), with such a repeal clearing the way for legalized sports betting throughout the United States of America.
As we get closer to the hearing date, however, a number of powerful voices in the very top levels of sports, including the major professional leagues, and government have come out against potential changes to the controversial law, and how much influence those voices will have on the proceedings is yet to be seen!
Among the most vocal proponents of PASPA a quarter century ago were America’s various professional sports leagues. The National Football League (NFL), the National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Hockey League (NHL), and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) all threw support behind the act way back in 1992.
Back then, NBA commissioner David Stern was among the big-names that testified in favor of federal regulation. In recent years Sterns replacement, Adam Silver, has shown an openness towards legalized sports betting, even going so far as to write an op-ed piece in the New York Times advocating federal legalization during his first year in charge of the NBA in 2014.
More recently, Silver stated that he anticipated the laws changing, and changing soon when asked about legalization in July of this year. Around the same time that Silver made his prediction this summer, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke about his league playing an active role in any potential regulatory changes, implying a certain openness on the part of the league towards legalization.
Similarly, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman - who just saw an expansion team start playing in America’s gambling capital of Las Vegas - proclaimed he was not worried about possible legalization or how it would affect hockey. When all was said and done, the NFL was the only major professional sports league in the country with leadership still publicly opposed to legalizing sports betting.
Despite that vocal support for legalization from the majority of the men running the leagues, there are other powerful people - namely team owners - that have a say in how the leagues approach potential legalization, and they are not as open. As a result of some owner objections and fears, the leagues have unanimously opposed New Jersey’s push for repeal.
United States President Donald Trump has been engaged in a feud with the National Football League, specifically with NFL players that choose to kneel during the national anthem in protest of police behavior towards minorities in America, a feud that has dominated headlines for weeks.
Still, when it comes to the question of legalizing sports betting, Trump has gone against former ally and current New Jersey governor Chris Christie (who has spent years leading New Jersey’s legalization efforts) and sided with the NFL and other professional sports leagues.
For months no one was sure how Trump would land in this debate, as despite being a part of the generally anti-gambling Republican party the former casino owner has publicly supported the legalization of sports betting as far back the 1990s, when he echoed the pro-legalization stance of the American Gaming Association.
Last week Trump answered the question of where he stands in a long way, putting his administration firmly on the side of PASPA and the leagues. U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco filed a brief on October 23 critiquing the legal case New Jersey has presented in the matter, as well as warning about potential negative repercussions on future cases should New Jersey emerge victorious.
Of particular note are concerns about what is known as the Supremacy Clause, the part of the United States Constitution that establishes the Constitution and federal laws made pursuant to it as the supreme law of the country. Trump and his team claim that should New Jersey win their case for legalized sports betting it would open the door for other federal laws and prohibitions to fall.
Despite the loud objections of the sports leagues and the President, the majority of Americans are actually on the side of New Jersey, with a recent poll showing that 55% of Americans favor sports betting legalization with only 33% opposed.
Beyond the support of the general public, the majority of experts following the case as it heads to the Supreme Court feel that the highest court in the land will return a decision that at the very least alters PASPA in significant ways, with some believing the court may very well declare it unconstitutional.
Should either result happen, states such as New Jersey would see themselves free to offer legal, regulated, and taxable sports betting products to citizens, thereby bringing some of the estimated $150 billion illegally wagered by Americans into the light. Check back with Gambling.com News for more updates!