Why Sports Betting Passed Supreme Court

It Started With 9 To 5 Play

In May 2012, the Supreme Court of the United States made major news when they agreed to review the 1976 case, Comstock v. United States. After years of litigation, the case had finally arrived at the highest court in the land. In a 6-3 decision along party lines, the court ruled that the 1961 Mann Act (better known as the “White Slave Traffic Act”) was unconstitutional. The court’s decision effectively legalized sports betting in the United States. Suddenly, bettors across the country were able to place wagers on sporting events with ease. The case was a remarkable legal success for supporters of legalized sports betting, providing a clear roadmap for how to achieve this goal.

A National Debate

The debate over whether or not to legalize sports betting in the U.S. is as old as the practice itself. While the majority of Americans support legal sports betting—including 60% of millennials, according to a recent poll by Leisure Lakes—the question of whether or not to regulate the industry has been a point of contention for quite some time. For decades, states have passed legislation prohibiting the practice and the federal government has done little to actively police the industry. In 2010, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was passed by Congress and signed into law by then-President Obama with the intention of protecting the integrity of sports in the U.S. While the law didn’t outright legalize sports betting, it did lay the groundwork for the eventual overturn of the ban.

Three Strikes And You’re Out

In 2016, baseball fans were given a major scare when Major League Baseball decided to implement a “three strikes and you’re out” rule for anyone found using performance-enhancing drugs. The decision effectively banned athletes found to be using PEDs from playing professional baseball for life. The same year, another notable ruling came from the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of NFL v. NCAA, effectively legalizing sports betting for the National Football League and the NCAA. The two parties reached an agreement that allowed the NFL to partner with sports betting operator DraftKings. Under the terms of the deal, casinos and other sports book venues are allowed to offer betting on football games. While the ruling is considered a landmark decision, it is not yet clear how legalization will affect the integrity of sports in America. The case is currently being appealed to the Supreme Court.

Unwanted Attention

Just because something is legal doesn’t mean that it’s right. In the legal arena, the opponents of legalized sports gambling often cite the potential for abuse as a major cause for concern. Some people might exploit the system, taking advantage of the fact that they can’t be prosecuted under existing law. There is also the threat of addiction, as individuals might become too obsessed with winning money at the expense of others. These are issues that authorities and lawmakers must address if they truly want to provide a safe and fair environment for sports betting.

State-by-State Legalization

While the majority of states have seen the light and approved sports betting, it has not been an easy transition for everyone. In the years since PASPA was passed, 14 states have outright banned sports betting, while 37 more have banned it in some shape or form. The debate over whether or not to legalize sports betting has been a topic of discussion in all 50 states, with the majority choosing to do so. The problem is that when the federal government does not actively promote or actively enforce a particular practice, it becomes difficult to determine how big of a role, if any, states should play in regulating the industry. This is one area that will likely be revisited by the Trump administration. Interestingly, even some states that have legalized sports betting see value in regulating the industry and trying to protect the integrity of their game. The state of New Jersey, for example, effectively banned sports betting after its initial implementation in 2010. In 2016, however, voting members of the state’s legislature passed a law allowing for legalized sports betting once again. The new law allows for the establishment of up to 40 sports books in the state. Even in these early stages, it is important to note that state-sponsored sports books must adhere to strict guidelines in order to avoid any conflicts of interest.

Where Do We Go From Here?

The Supreme Court of the United States has effectively ruled on three separate occasions that sports betting is legal in some form or another. The practice will continue to be a point of contention in the legal arena for years to come. The fact that these cases were decided with such a slim margin of victory means that there is still plenty of room for both sides to work together to find a common ground. Congress is also considering legislation that would legalize sports betting, but only on a federal level. It is still unclear which direction the future of sports betting in America will take, but with each new ruling, the possibility of change grows stronger.