Supreme Court makes sports bet­ting a pos­si­bil­ity

The Dundalk Eagle - - PUZZLES - By JES­SICA GRESKO

— The Supreme Court on Mon­day gave its go-ahead for states to al­low gam­bling on sports across the na­tion, strik­ing down a fed­eral law that barred bet­ting on foot­ball, basketball, base­ball and other sports in most states.

The jus­tices voted 6-3 to strike down the Pro­fes­sional and Am­a­teur Sports Pro­tec­tion Act, a 1992 law that for­bade state-au­tho­rized sports gam­bling with some ex­cep­tions. It made Ne­vada the only state where a per­son could wager on the re­sults of a sin­gle game.

Many states have hoped their cut of le­gal­ized sports gam­bling could help solve bud­get prob­lems. Stock prices for casino op­er­a­tors and equip­ment mak­ers surged after the rul­ing was an­nounced.

The rul­ing, in a case from New Jer­sey, cre­ates an open­ing to bring an ac­tiv­ity out of the shad­ows that many Amer­i­cans al­ready see as a main­stream hobby. The Amer­i­can Gam­ing As­so­ci­a­tion es­ti­mates that Amer­i­cans il­le­gally wager about $150 bil­lion on sports each year, and one re­search firm es­ti­mated be­fore the rul­ing that if the Supreme Court were to strike down the law 32 states would likely of­fer sports bet­ting within five years.

Jus­tice Sa­muel Al­ito wrote for the court, “The le­gal­iza­tion of sports gam­bling re­quires an im­por­tant pol­icy choice, but the choice is not ours to make. Congress can reg­u­late sports gam­bling di­rectly, but if it elects not to do so, each state is free to act on its own. Our job is to in­ter­pret the law Congress has en­acted and de­cide whether it is con­sis­tent with the Con­sti­tu­tion. PASPA is not.”

Jus­tices Ruth Bader Gins­burg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia So­tomayor dis­sented. Gins­burg wrote for the three that when a por­tion of a law vi­o­lates the Con­sti­tu­tion, the court “or­di­nar­ily en­gages in a sal­vage rather than a de­mo­li­tion op­er­a­tion,” pre­serv­ing what it can. She said that in­stead of us­ing a “scalpel to trim the statute” her col­leagues used “an axe” to cut the re­main­der down. Breyer agreed with the ma­jor­ity of the court that part of the law must be struck down but said that should not have doomed the rest of the law.

Con­cerned that ques­tions will be raised at some point that bet­ting could af­fect teams’ per­for­mance and the out­come of games, all four ma­jor U.S. pro­fes­sional sports leagues, the NCAA and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment had urged the court to up­hold the fed­eral law. In court, the NBA, NFL, NHL and Ma­jor League Base­ball had ar­gued that New Jer­sey’s gam­bling ex­pan­sion would hurt the in­tegrity of their games. Out­side court, how­ever, lead­ers of all but the NFL have shown vary­ing de­grees of open­ness to le­gal­ized sports gam­bling.

On Mon­day, Ma­jor League Base­ball is­sued a state­ment say­ing the Supreme Court rul­ing would have “pro­found ef­fects” on the league and that it would “con­tinue to seek the proper pro­tec­tions for our sport.”

NBA commissioner Adam Sil­ver says the pro basketball league re­mains fa­vor “of a fed­eral frame­work that would pro­vide a uni­form ap­proach to sports gam­bling in sates that choose to per­mit it.” He said that “re­gard­less of the par­tic­u­lars of any future sports bet­ting law, the in­tegrity of our game re­mains our high­est pri­or­ity.”

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Na­tional Hockey League and Na­tional Foot­ball League had no im­me­di­ate com­ment on the rul­ing, say­ing they were an­a­lyz­ing it. The NCAA’s chief le­gal of­fi­cer said the or­ga­ni­za­tion is still re­view­ing the court’s de­ci­sion but added that it “will ad­just sports wa­ger­ing and cham­pi­onship poli­cies to align with the di­rec­tion from the court.”

The court’s de­ci­sion came in a case from New Jer­sey, which has fought for years to le­gal­ize gam­bling on sports at casi­nos and race­tracks. For­mer Gov. Chris Christie said after ar­gu­ments in the case in De­cem­ber that if jus­tices sided with the state, bets could be taken “within two weeks” of a de­ci­sion.

After the rul­ing was an­nounced, the for­mer Repub­li­can gov­er­nor tweeted that it was a “great day for the rights of states and their peo­ple to make their own de­ci­sions.” The state’s cur­rent gov­er­nor, Demo­crat Phil Mur­phy, also cheered the rul­ing, say­ing he was “thrilled” to see the high court strike down the “ar­bi­trary ban.” He said he looked for­ward to work­ing with the Leg­is­la­ture to “en­act a law au­tho­riz­ing and reg­u­lat­ing sports bet­ting in the very near future.”

Mon­mouth Park, a race­track at the Jer­sey Shore, has al­ready set up a sports book op­er­a­tion and has pre­vi­ously es­ti­mated it could take bets within two weeks of a fa­vor­able rul­ing.

Tony Ro­dio, pres­i­dent of Tropicana En­ter­tain­ment, said his At­lantic City casino will “ab­so­lutely” of­fer sports bet­ting once it can get it up and run­ning. “It’s been a long time com­ing,” he said.

New Jer­sey has spent years and mil­lions of dol­lars in le­gal fees try­ing to le­gal­ize sports bet­ting. In 2012, with vot­ers’ sup­port, New Jer­sey law­mak­ers passed a law al­low­ing sports bet­ting, di­rectly chal­leng­ing the 1992 fed­eral law. The four ma­jor pro­fes­sional sports leagues and the NCAA sued, and the state lost in court.

In 2014, New Jer­sey tried a different tac­tic by re­peal­ing laws pro­hibit­ing sports gam­bling at casi­nos and race­tracks. It ar­gued that tak­ing its laws off the books was different from au­tho­riz­ing sports gam­bling. The state lost again and then took the case to the Supreme Court.

More than a dozen states had sup­ported New Jer­sey, which ar­gued that Congress ex­ceeded its au­thor­ity when it passed its law. New Jer­sey said the Con­sti­tu­tion al­lows Congress to pass laws bar­ring wa­ger­ing on sports, but Congress can’t re­quire states to keep sports gam­bling pro­hi­bi­tions in place.

As­so­ci­ated Press re­porter Wayne Parry contributed re­port­ing from At­lantic City, N.J., and Steve Me­gargee contributed re­port­ing from Knoxville, Tenn.

AP PHOTO/JOHN LOCHER

In this March 15, 2018 photo, peo­ple watch cov­er­age of the first round of the NCAA col­lege basketball tour­na­ment at the West­gate Su­per­book sports book in Las Ve­gas. The Supreme Court has struck down a fed­eral law that bars gam­bling on foot­ball,...

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