IT HAPPENED: On May 14 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a 1992 federal law that effectively banned sports gambling in every state not named Nevada. The decision could reshape the sports industry in the U.S.—and the fan experience. It is a controversial ruling. Two of the nine justices (Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor) dissented in full, a third (Stephen Breyer) dissented in part, and during the case the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and the NCAA, along with the Department of Justice, all argued that PASPA should be upheld.
The legal reasoning behind the court's decision is essentially this: It's a massive affirmation of states' rights. But fans are more concerned with what the ruling means for sports.
WHEN AND WHERE CAN I PUT DOWN A LEGAL BET?
For now, still only in Nevada. The court ruled on a specific challenge to PASPA brought by the state of New Jersey. (Chris Christie, who was governor when the case began, began clamoring to legalize sports betting in the Garden State in 2012.) So expect Jersey to be among the first to offer sports gambling. But any other state can now advance legislation that would make sports betting legal within its borders.
To fans imagining Vegas-style sports books in their hometowns: patience. The ruling itself doesn't make sports gambling legal. It allows states to begin the process of legalization, and the legislative process is hardly instantaneous. Most bills fail, and even successful legislation can take months or years from introduction to implementation. Even after a sports-betting bill becomes law, a state will need to devise procedures—most likely through its gaming commission—to offer licenses to casinos and other gambling entities. States will also need to fund any expenses related to new laws and regulations. Only after these steps would consumers be able to bet on sports.
Mindful of this lengthy timetable and in anticipation (hope?) of the Supreme Court's ruling, a number of states got a jump on the legislative process. (Chart, next page.) According to the website Legal Sports Report, six states have enacted laws that could lead to sports betting soon: Connecticut, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Now that the Supreme Court has opened the door for betting laws to become operational, those acts could go into effect in weeks or months. Another dozen or so states are considering, or have recently considered, sports-betting bills. At the other end of the spectrum, 26 states have not introduced any sports-betting legislation. For political and philosophical reasons, it's safe to assume that some states will never legalize sports betting.
This is not surprising since views about betting vary—a point captured in Justice Samuel Alito's majority opinion: "Americans have never been of one mind about gambling." Even in states where betting is legal, there are sure to be different regulations from state to state, with variation in age limits and taxation schemes, and the kinds of establishments where bets can be placed.
WHAT SPORTS WILL I BE ABLE TO BET ON?
You can bet on any sport that attracts the interest of licensed operators—so long as state law permits it. Bets on NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL games will almost certainly be allowed; bets on NCAA games will face greater scrutiny by lawmakers in some states. The possibility of betting on high school sports or the Olympics is sure to raise additional questions.
WHO WILL PROFIT FROM LEGALIZED GAMBLING?
Casinos and other sports books, obviously. At first glance, one might expect that the Supreme Court ruling would be disappointing to the pro leagues and the NCAA. After all, they did lose. But the leagues have already taken steps to embrace certain aspects of sports betting—and to profit from it.
Take the NBA. Commissioner Adam Silver has openly endorsed the idea of the federal government legalizing and regulating sports betting across the country. Leagues and some other businesses would prefer there be a uniform set of rules rather than variations state to state. Silver and his predecessor, David Stern, have also not shied away from linking the NBA to Las Vegas, where sports betting has been legal since 1949. For instance, the 2007 All-Star Game was played in Vegas. The city is also host to the NBA's Summer League.
Anticipating the Supreme Court's decision, the NBA has joined other leagues in demanding payment of so-called sports betting rights and integrity fees. Betting operators and sports books would pay fees to the leagues in states that legalize sports betting. The reasoning: Since leagues provide the games, they expect to receive a portion of gambling revenue, much like players or musicians who expect royalties if others trade on their identities or talents. Leagues also contend that they should not have to bear all the costs of compliance, monitoring and investigations related to sports gambling—in other words, the price of preserving the integrity of their games.
Integrity fees are common in Europe where sports gambling is legal, but U.S. betting operators and sports books are generally opposed to them. They argue that the leagues would be playing games regardless of whether people were betting on them. Those operators could also reasonably ask why, if integrity fees are so essential, leagues never demanded them before from Las Vegas sports books. State governments are also poised to oppose integrity fees if collecting them means a reduction in tax revenue.
WHO WINS WITH THIS DECISION?
Casinos, racetracks, any place that is set to build a sports book. This is apparent in New Jersey, where the Monmouth Park racetrack already has a partnership with the London-based bookmaker William Hill. Expect other tracks and casinos in Jersey, and those in Connecticut, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, to be among the first to be up and running. And good news for bettors who don't live near those states: DraftKings, the daily fantasy giant, has announced that it will enter the sports-betting market.
Vegas, baby. Sin City had a near-monopoly on sports wagering. Those days are over. Many tourists who traveled to Vegas for the sports books will soon find options closer to home.
"TO FANS IMAGINING VEGAS-STYLE SPORTS BOOKS COMING TO THEIR TOWNS: PATIENCE. THE RULING DOESN'T MAKE SPORTS GAMBLING LEGAL. IT ALLOWS STATES TO BEGIN THE PROCESS OF LEGALIZATION."
A LIFE REMEMBERED
FACES IN THE CROWD
SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE
A BIRMINGHAM CITY FAN IS KEEPING HIS VOW TO GET A BUTT TATTOO OF MANAGER GARRY MONK'S FACE IF THE TEAM BEAT FULHAM—BUT ONLY AFTER MONK KICKED IN £80.
THEY SAID IT
"I WAS LEAVING PITCHES RIGHT DOWN THE MIDDLE AND THEY WERE HITTING THEM OVER THE FENCE"