After five-plus months of anxious waiting for sports betting stakeholders and enthusiasts, the Supreme Court of the United States delivered what once appeared to be a highly improbable scenario: a full repeal of the Professional Sports and Amateur Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992.
By a vote of 6-3, the justices declared that the federal ban on sports wagering is unconstitutional. The floodgates are now open for states to offer legal, regulated sports betting.
- What this means: According to the text from the SCOTUS decision, “Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each state is free to act on its own.”
The long and winding road that Murphy vs. NCAA (formerly Christie vs. NCAA) rode to victory spans nearly the entirety of the current decade. It includes numerous false starts for the state of New Jersey in its efforts to legalize sports wagering in its jurisdiction, as well as dogged persistence in the face of multiple defeats at different levels of the legal system.
Immediate green light for multiple jurisdictions
The decision fully striking down PASPA was one of two possible outcomes that had been deemed as increasingly likely since the Supreme Court surprisingly agreed to take the case in late June 2017. It means that the four other states besides New Jersey that have successfully passed some sort of legislation – Mississippi sports betting, Pennsylvania sports betting, New York sports betting and West Virginia sports betting – can begin implementing a sports betting framework as soon as they deem fit.
Moreover, the numerous other states actively considering sports betting bills now enjoy greater clarity and have considerably more incentive to get legislation passed.
Multiple states now on the clock
New Jersey is naturally the state most prepared to implement sports betting in the wake of the decision. In fact, Monmouth Park, the track which was reportedly days away from being ready to offer sports betting after the 2014 law that the NFL’s injunction put on ice, is expected to push to be ready to accept wagers right away.
Delaware is also a favorite to be among the first to market. Prior to Monday’s decision it was the only state east of Las Vegas that could legally offer a sports book, though it was limited only to parlay betting on NFL games.
The aforementioned states that also have some sort of established legislative pathway to a regulated sports betting market are certain to pick up the pace in light of the decision. However, the timeframe for a rollout would undoubtedly vary from state to state. Here’s a brief overview of where each stands at present:
- Mississippi – Gaming Commission Deputy Director Jay McDaniel has previously stated that the state would need a few months to propose regulations and have them approved following a Supreme Court decision, but that implementation before the end of 2018 would be feasible.
- New York – A 2013 referendum approved sports betting in the state’s commercial casinos if it was ever legalized at the federal level. The NY State Gaming Commission will oversee all sports-betting activity as per that legislation, and the state is still considering bills that would expand sports betting to tracks and off-track betting parlors.
- Pennsylvania – The state, which legalized sports betting as part of an omnibus gaming bill in October 2017, has previously stated it would quickly be ready to act upon a favorable Supreme Court decision.
- West Virginia – The Lottery Commission which will oversee sports betting, is on record as saying the state will be ready to implement sports betting within 90 days of a Supreme Court decision.
For other states still considering sports betting bills in their current legislative sessions, issues such as the integrity fees being requested by MLB and the NBA and potential conflicts with Indian tribes could potentially delay implementation in certain cases.
A step-by-step overview of New Jersey’s journey
To fully grasp the extent of the years-long battle the Garden State waged against the powerful defendants in Murphy vs. NCAA – which also included the major professional sports leagues – a comprehensive timeline is in order:
- New Jersey residents first approve a referendum to legalize sports betting in the state in November 2011.
- The resulting Sports Wagering Act of 2012 is signed into law by Governor Chris Christie.
- The leagues successfully obtain an injunction in federal district court barring New Jersey from officially enacting the law. They also subsequently prevail in the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals. However, the Appeals Court ruling states that PASPA would not stop New Jersey from repealing its own ban on sports betting and allow it to operate unregulated.
- New Jersey makes an appeal to have its case heard by U.S. Supreme Court in February 2014. The state is denied in June 2014.
- Christie signs new measure (SB2460) in October 2014 based on the Appeals Court’s conclusion that New Jersey may repeal its ban on sports betting.
- The NFL immediately seeks – and is granted — an injunction by the U.S. District Court later that month. It also subsequently prevails in the U.S Third Circuit Court of Appeals in August 2015.
- In response, New Jersey requests and is subsequently granted an en banc hearing in October 2015.
- New Jersey loses en banc hearing by a 9-3 margin in August 2016.
- New Jersey files second appeal to U.S. Supreme Court in October 2016.
- New Jersey is granted a Supreme Court hearing in June 2017.
- Oral arguments – which appear to go in favor of New Jersey – are heard in front of the Supreme Court on December 4, 2017.
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