Supreme Court Overturns PASPA, Paving Way for States to Determine Sports Betting Legality

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Monday, May 14, 2018 will forever be known as one of the most important days in US sports betting history. In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court pulled the plug on the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA). The ruling grants individual states the right to legalize sports betting, which potentially will open up a legal sports betting industry that analysts estimate to be worth more than $100 billion.

US Supreme Court
The US Supreme Court struck down the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, paving way for individual states to legalize sports betting. (Image: LA Times)

For avid sports bettors outside Nevada, PASPA was a curse word that prevented legal sports gambling throughout most of the country. Only Oregon, Delaware, Montana, and Nevada, were exempt from the federal law that banned wagering on sports.

Those days are over thanks to Monday’s Supreme Court ruling, which breaks ups Nevada’s industry monopoly in the US.

“The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion. “Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each state is free to act on its own.”

Sports Betting Manifest Destiny

Eliminating PASPA didn’t automatically legalize sports betting throughout the country. But each state now has a right to determine its legality.

New Jersey was leading the charge in this case, and is expected to be the first state to license sportsbooks, possibly in time for the upcoming NBA Finals. Other states will most certainly follow suit, though implementation will take time.

Pennsylvania passed a law that legalized online gambling (and poker) last year, and included a provision that allowed for legal sports betting should the Supreme Court make the ruling they did. But it likely will still take months before new sports betting regulations have the Keystone State ready to accept bets.

More than 20 states so far have introduced legislation to legalize sports betting, and this SCOTUS decision should give them the green light to move their bills forward.

Will Legal Sports Betting Hurt Vegas?

Las Vegas has long been the sports betting capital of the world, and most legal action has taken place in this hot tourist destination. So, with PASPA being overturned, many are wondering how much of an effect it will have on Sin City.

The most common answer is, “none.” State Rep. Dina Titus supports the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act has spawned a $150 billion annual illegal sports betting market that lacks consumer protections, is ripe for manipulation, fuels other illicit activities, and jeopardizes the integrity of sports leagues,” Titus said.

She added that she will work with lawmakers in other states so they can “learn from the gold standard set in Nevada.”

“Las Vegas will still be the premier destination for sports betting, and Nevada can export its expertise.”

– Dina Titus

Most expect minimal, if any, impact on Las Vegas tourism in the coming years because the lure of Sin City will still be there. Most states have poker rooms, yet many Americans travel to Las Vegas each year to play poker because the city has more and better card rooms.

Caesars Entertainment saw its stock price jump 6 percent on news of the Supreme Court decision.

Las Vegas still has advantages over other cities that will soon have licensed sportsbooks such as fancy casinos, bright lights, and other unique attractions. Sports betting is just one of many amenities offered by a Vegas Strip casino, along with restaurants, slot machines, poker, table games, nightclubs, etc.

Gambling has never been exclusive to Las Vegas, but the city draws millions of tourists each year for reasons already discussed. Sports bettors come to Las Vegas for more than just to get action on a ballgame, and that isn’t likely to change.

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