Supreme Court OKs le­gal sports gam­bling

The Week (US) - - News 5 -

What hap­pened

The Supreme Court this week struck down a fed­eral law that had ef­fec­tively banned sports bet­ting in most states, clearing the way for an ex­plo­sion of le­gal­ized gam­bling on pro­fes­sional and am­a­teur sports. In a 6-3 vote, the court sided with a chal­lenge brought by New Jer­sey, which had ar­gued that the 1992 Pro­fes­sional and Am­a­teur Sports Pro­tec­tion Act—from which Ne­vada was ex­empted—vi­o­lated states’ rights to reg­u­late ac­tiv­ity within their borders. “A more di­rect af­front to state sovereignty is not easy to imag­ine,” Jus­tice Sa­muel Al­ito wrote in the ma­jor­ity opin­ion. Casino stocks jumped fol­low­ing the rul­ing, and state law­mak­ers in New Jer­sey and else­where vowed to pass bills to reg­u­late and tax le­gal­ized sports bet­ting. Gam­ing in­dus­try ex­perts es­ti­mate that Amer­i­cans cur­rently place at least $150 bil­lion in il­le­gal sports bets each year.

The NBA and the MLB im­me­di­ately be­gan press­ing for a 1 per­cent cut of the ac­tion as an “in­tegrity fee” to help them guard against cor­rup­tion of play­ers and ref­er­ees. But crit­ics warned that mak­ing it easy and le­gal to bet on pop­u­lar sports could lead to a surge in gam­bling ad­dic­tion, and de­manded that Congress tax gam­ing rev­enues to pay for treat­ment. “We’ve opened up a real cir­cus here,” said Arnie Wexler, a cer­ti­fied com­pul­sive gam­bling coun­selor.

What the colum­nists said

This de­ci­sion “will cre­ate far more win­ners than losers,” said Chris Smith in Forbes.com. Cash-hun­gry states will see their cof­fers swell—a re­cent study sug­gested le­gal­ized sports bet­ting could gen­er­ate $8.4 bil­lion a year in new tax rev­enues. In­di­vid­ual fran­chises will be­come more valu­able as in­ter­est in game re­sults grows. And sports gam­bling “could be a life­line” for TV net­works that have seen view­er­ship for live games slump in re­cent years even as they kept shelling out bil­lions of dol­lars in rights fees. More view­ers will stay tuned, be­cause they’ll be “lit­er­ally in­vested in the out­come of a game,” and ad money from bet­ting firms is cer­tain to flood in.

Sure, every­body wins—ex­cept the gam­blers, said Jim Ger­aghty in Na­tion­alRe­view.com. New Jer­sey fought against the ban in part be­cause it thinks sports gam­bling can re­vi­tal­ize At­lantic City. Well, I’ve been to At­lantic City, “and I found the place deeply de­press­ing.” There are pawn­shops around the cor­ner from the casi­nos with signs read­ing “We Buy Wed­ding Rings.” Many sports fans will likely con­vince them­selves that be­cause sports are contests be­tween hu­mans of dif­fer­ent abil­i­ties, pick­ing a win­ner—un­like at the roulette wheel—is a mat­ter of thought­ful anal­y­sis, not luck. Yet no amount of savvy can beat the house.

Per­son­ally, I’m not thrilled at the idea of stand­ing in a sta­dium sur­rounded by “lu­natics mak­ing in-game bets on their phones,” said Ja­son Gay in The Wall Street Jour­nal. And yet Europe le­gal­ized sports gam­bling years ago, and soc­cer fans there seem to en­joy the game just as much as ever. So the court’s rul­ing is “prob­a­bly not the end of the world, nor the dawn of a bril­liant new one.” It’ll be some­thing in be­tween. “At least that’s my bet. That, and the Celtics in 6.”

Sports bet­ting in Las Ve­gas: Now go­ing na­tional

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