It’s safe to say sports betting has been around as long as sports. Elysian Fields probably had a sportsbook. The two go hand in hand and it’s never been as popular as it is today. Whether it’s online or with a bookie, Americans are laying sports wagers. It something so ingrained in our society that you can find the point spreads printed in the paper. Every single day.
Tons of Money in Betting
Illegal sports betting amounts to well over $150 billion dollars every year by most accounts. And that’s probably an under-estimation. It’s also estimated that legal sports gambling would create a $300 – $600 million dollar a year tax windfall. And that’s just in Illinois. And popular opinion on the matter has never been higher. Bills and referendums are being written and voted on by multiple states every year to legalize sports gambling. All of this makes me believe legalized sports betting is only a matter of time. An inevitability. And it just may be, thanks to New Jersey.
Sooner than not, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on New Jersey’s case to legalize sports gambling. This issue has been around for years and thanks to former governor Chris Christie and the fine people of New Jersey, it will finally be heard in the nation’s highest court sometime this summer. New Jersey is challenging the constitutionality of the PASPA or Professional Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. This act outlawed sports gambling on the federal level. Making it illegal nationwide.
New Jersey is Centerpiece
However, New Jersey is citing the 10th Amendment’s “anti-commandeering” rule. This rule states Congress cannot force states to enforce federal regulations. The voters of New Jersey have voted for the issue repeatedly on the state and local level for years now as it began as a campaign promise from Chris Christie’s first run for governor. The racetrack Monmouth Park has already built a sportsbook. State legislators have a bill in place that sets some regulations. Other states and governors have joined in. West Virginia has legislation in place to legalize. And all of this is Supreme Court ruling pending.
Partisan politics has mostly stayed out of the way. Both sides, Democrat or Republican, have supporters and detractors. The Republicans play up the state’s rights, free market angle but have trouble with the moral questions gambling raises. Especially with their religious base. While the democrats stick to their consumer rights card but would want federal law to take control. Whatever the politicians talking points may be, they will be forced to act if the Supreme Court rules in favor of New Jersey. And the bottomline is the tax money, because and let’s be honest, both parties eyes must light up at the tax revenue it would create.
Sports leagues seem to be playing both sides of the soon-to-be decision. Take the NBA, for example. Commissioner Adam Silver is on record saying sports betting should be legal and well-regulated. We can only assume he was giving his personal opinion because the league, on the other hand, has lobbied hard to curtail any effort to legalize. However, the NBA’s also been pushing states to give them a cut if it does indeed become law. They want a 1% fee, which, and get this, they are calling an “integrity fee.” It’s all very interesting coming from a league not far removed from Tim Donaghy.
How Will This End?
So, how will the court respond? It is hard to say but the Supreme Court has a history of supporting the status quo. Any change to any law only creates more legislation and litigation. The Supreme Court understands this better than anyone. Many times they will not even hear cases preferring to let the lower court’s decisions stand effectively ending debates. However, it was reported that during oral arguments in December, the court was quite receptive to the idea of legalization due to New Jersey’s voting record on the issue. But the best indicator we have may be in Las Vegas. Where at least one sportsbook has New Jersey as the favorite. Paying out at -145.