In a boost for the prospect of commercial sports gambling across the nation, the Supreme Court on Monday struck down a federal law that effectively banned such gambling in most states.
The case concerned New Jersey, but it has implications for other states eager to allow and tax sports gambling. Americans are estimated to annually place $150 billion in illegal wagers on sports.
The betting law, called the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, prohibited states from authorizing sports gambling. It exempted Nevada, where sports betting has long been legal, along with sports lotteries in Delaware, Montana and Oregon. Other states were given a year to opt in, but none acted in time.
In 2011, though, as casinos in Atlantic City were losing revenue, voters in New Jersey amended its state Constitution to allow sports betting, and the state Legislature soon passed a law authorizing it. The four major sports leagues successfully challenged the state law as a violation of the federal one.
In 2014, the Legislature tried a new approach, partly repealing its existing bans on sports betting to allow it at racetracks and casinos. The leagues again sued and won.
The Supreme Court has said that the federal government may not commandeer state resources to achieve federal objectives. On the other hand, the court has said that the federal government may regulate all sorts of things directly and that federal laws pre-empt contrary state laws under the Constitution’s supremacy clause.
In Monday’s decision in the case, Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, No. 16-476, the court ruled that the 1992 law amounted to unconstitutional commandeering.
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