The U.S. Supreme Court has struck a major blow for sports fans by legalizing sports betting. In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Kennedy, the court struck down Federal Law 880, also known as the Professional Sports Punishment Act, which prohibited states from authorizing sports gambling. Now, states can choose to legalize sports betting, creating a potentially lucrative market for bookmakers and casinos alike.
The decision is a significant win for states’ rights activists and people who believe gaming should be legalized in general. It also marks an important victory for the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection (PASPA) Act, which effectively barred the federal government from prosecuting sports gambling. The court’s decision effectively strikes down Section 5 of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, better known as the Professional Sports Punishment Act.
The decision comes as a result of a 2012 challenge to the Professional Sports Punishment Act filed by the State of New Jersey. Last year, the state challenged the constitutionality of the statute, arguing that it violated the Tenth Amendment by attempting to limit the power of the states. In addition, the state contended that the law interfered with its right to regulate gambling under the First Amendment.
In a unanimous decision released today, the U.S. Supreme Court justices agreed, setting aside the Professional Sports Punishment Act and paving the way for New Jersey to regulate sports gambling within its borders.
Why the Court Decided to Legalize Sports Betting
In his decision, Justice Kennedy pointed to the detrimental effects of sports gambling, particularly where organized crime and corruption are concerned. “The social cost of sports gambling is significant and rising,” he wrote. “It is difficult to overstate the harm that gambling causes in general and the damage that organized crime and corruption in particular inflict on sports and the community.”
With the court’s decision, states can now authorize sports gambling, creating a potentially lucrative market for bookmakers and casinos. According to The New York Times, the legal betting market could be worth around $40 billion annually.
Kennedy also expressed frustration with Congress’s lack of action on the issue. “Congress has not seen fit to legislate on this important subject, and we have been forced to decide these cases on our own, with grave consequences for the Nation’s sports fans,” he wrote. “That must be remedied.”
Although today’s decision only deals with Section 5 of the Professional Sports Protection Act, the effect is still likely to be significant. In light of today’s ruling, it is highly likely that other provisions of the Act will now be deemed unconstitutional as well.
The Importance of State Authority Over Sports Gambling
The court’s decision to strike down Section 5 of the Professional Sports Protection Act is largely due to its interpretation of the Tenth Amendment. “A Federal Act that regulates sport cannot exempt the State from the Amendment’s restrictions,” the justices wrote in their opinion. “Federal law must give way if it violates the Constitution.”
What the court seems to be saying is that while the federal government can pass laws that regulate areas like banking or drug possession, which are within the scope of the Constitution’s enumerated powers, it cannot regulate sports under the guise of authority granted to it by the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. This is because the power to regulate commerce does not include the power to regulate sports. This interpretation is supported by language in a separate part of the opinion, where the court wrote:
“The Federal Government’s commerce power does not include the power to regulate sports. Only states and the Federal Government have the authority to regulate sports under the Constitution,” the court said.
This means that while the Professional Sports Protection Act may have been passed with the intention of punishing individuals who engage in sports gambling, the reality is that it will now enable states to authorize and regulate sports gambling.
It may be the case that the court’s decision in New Jersey v. Federal Government could eventually lead to the overturn of PASPA as a whole. After all, if states can regulate sports under the banner of the Commerce Clause, it stands to reason that they can also authorize sports gambling and let the free market decide the fate of professional sports in America.
In light of the court’s decision, PASPA, which was initially passed with the intention of preventing professional sports from becoming an “economic enterprise that is dominated by corrupting influences,” might actually become a valuable tool for states looking to regulate sports. What it seems to be saying is that if states want to allow professional sports to flourish, they can now do so under the watchful eye of PASPA.
It cannot be understated how significant this decision is. In the course of a single day, the court has effectively legalized sports betting, struck down a law designed to prevent corruption in the sports world, and handed down a major blow to the federal government’s war on drugs. This is a major win for states’ rights activists and people who believe that gaming should be legalized in general.
The Future of Professional Sports
The future of professional sports looks incredibly bright, now that the court has decided to legalize sports betting. As stated by The New York Times, the decision could lead to a “golden era” for organized sports, particularly professional football. In the years to come, fans will have the opportunity to bet on their favorite sports teams without fearing that they will break some shadowy law. This is a tremendous victory for fans who want to be able to follow their team without worrying about the law.
What’s more, it could lead to the revitalization of American professional sports. If states choose to legalize sports betting, the potential market is significant. Some reports indicate that around 20 percent of the U.S. population could be involved in some form of sports betting, creating a market of more than 60 million potential customers for bookmakers and casinos.
New Jersey is expected to be the first state to adopt legislation that allows sports gambling. As soon as it does, sports fans will be able to follow their teams, wagering on their performances and hoping for the best.