The Supreme Court on Monday overturned a 26-year-old law that limited gambling, clearing the way for states to enact legalized sports betting.
The court’s ruling stemmed from the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) that prohibited states from authorizing sports gambling.
“The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make,” Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote in his opinion for the court. “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 and Sonia Sotomayor dissented, but Justice Stephen Breyer agreed with part of his colleagues’ decision.
Ginsburg, who wrote the dissenting opinion, disagreed with the majority to “destroy PASPA” and not assess the law strictly on the federal level that still gave states some control.
“The court wields an ax … instead of using a scalpel to trim the statute,” Ginsburg wrote.
Nevada, where gambling is legal, served as the only state grandfathered to permit sports betting when the federal law passed in 1992.
New Jersey voters approved a measure in 2011 in favor of sports gambling. Then three years later, the state legislature repealed its law and received challenges in court.
But New Jersey lawmakers received proposed legislation from Gov. Philip D. Murphy several weeks ago in preparation to approve sports gambling.
New Jersey Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney told the Associated Press that sports gambling in the state could happen as soon as June 30. Sweeney posted a statement on his Facebook page on how this case has been in court proceedings for at least seven years.
“This is a decisive and extremely gratifying victory for New Jersey,” he said. “We are on the right side of history with this case with a decision that will allow us to follow through with legally sanctioned sports betting.”
The Associated Press posted a map online from the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas that showed states “that would likely offer sports betting.”
It outlines Virginia and West Virginia could have betting within two years and Maryland in five years. The map labeled about 19 states and the District of Columbia as unknown.
The sports community released statements throughout the day after the ruling, including the four major professional sports leagues — the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who supports legalized gambling, said the league supports a federal framework in unison with what states approve.
“Regardless of the particulars of any future sports betting law, the integrity of our game remains our highest priority,” Silver said.
The NFL took a slightly different posture.
“We intend to call on Congress again, this time to enact a core regulatory framework for legalized sports betting,” the league’s issued statement said. “We also will work closely with our clubs to ensure that any state efforts that move forward in the meantime protect our fans and the integrity of our game.”
Ted Leonsis, who owns the Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards, said in a statement the court’s decision will change sports fandom for the better.
“Legalized sports betting will only bring fans closer to the game, ramping up the action in each minute and creating more intensity,” he said. “It will bring new revenue into the economy, creating jobs and growing our tax base. Today’s decision is a great one for sports fans and I am eager to embrace it.”
But not everyone agreed with that assessment. The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, an organization that promotes reforms in college athletics, said it encourages prohibition against betting on amateur and college sports.
“There should be a clear distinction between wagering on the outcomes of sport professionals and betting on students who compete for their college and high school sports teams,” the commission said in a statement.