Supreme Court lets states legalize sports betting, rules federal ban unconstitutional

The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a historic decision on Monday morning as it struck down the federal ban on sports gambling that prohibits betting on sports in most states. As a result, individual states will now have control over whether to allow sports gambling.

The case was brought to the Supreme court by the state of New Jersey, which has been advocating for legalized sports gambling for years. The Supreme Court voted in favor of striking down the ban with a 6-3 vote, per the Associated Press.

The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was established in 1992 to prohibit individual states from being able to "sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license, or authorize by law" the act of gambling on sports, with few exceptions. It made Las Vegas' sportsbook a national commodity, as Nevada is currently the only state where a person can wager on the results of a single game.

Six states (Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Mississippi) have already begun enacting legislation to legalize sports betting once the federal law is lifted. Over a dozen additional states have introduced legislation in the past few years in an effort to join them. 

Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie signed legislation in 2012 attempting to bypass PASPA and legalize sports betting in the state, but he was promptly sued by the NCAA and the four major pro sports leagues. New Jersey attempted to bring the case to the Supreme Court in 2014, but had their initial request for hearing denied. It wasn't until December of 2017 that the court began to hear the case.

You can read the court's full opinion on the case here.

Per the AP, the American Gaming Association estimates that Americans already 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.

"The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make," wrote Justice Samuel Alito 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, 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.

If you're curious about how this ruling impacts the respective sports leagues, we've got a full explainer here

Pete Blackburn is from Boston, so there's a good chance you don't like him already. He has been a writer at CBS Sports since 2017 and usually aims to take a humorous and light-hearted approach to the often... Full Bio

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