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No, the Supreme Court didn't just legalize sports betting

Every state except Nevada still has to pass its own laws.

by Christianna Silva
May 15 2018, 1:46pm

The Supreme Court on Monday gave the green light for states to legalize betting on sports when the justices struck down a 1992 federal law that prohibited sports gambling. But for the casual bettor, the law won’t change much — at least for now.

The 6-3 ruling is regarded as a win for New Jersey and other states that argue sports gambling encourages tourism and increases tax revenue — but it’s a definitive loss for the NCAA, the NFL, and the NBA, who all backed the 1992 ruling.

“The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make,” said Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the majority opinion. He added that the decision wasn’t a constitutional one but rather one that states should be able to make.

The decision began with a lawsuit brought by former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who celebrated the decision in a tweet.

“A great day for the rights of states and their people to make their own decisions,” Christie tweeted. “New Jersey citizens wanted sports gambling and the federal Gov't had no right to tell them no. The Supreme Court agrees with us today. I am proud to have fought for the rights of the people of NJ.”

Current New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy told CNN he was “thrilled” with the decision.

“Today's ruling will finally allow for authorized facilities in New Jersey to take the same bets that are legal in other states in our country,” Murphy said.

But what does the ruling mean for the casual sports bettor?

Can I start betting now?

Not yet, unless you’re in Nevada. The 1992 federal law made sports betting illegal outside of Nevada, and that still stands. The only other states that currently have any form of legal sports betting include Delaware, Montana and Oregon, but the betting they allow is very limited. All other states that want to offer legal sports betting will have to legalize it themselves.

What states want to legalize it?

Since Christie brought the lawsuit to the court, New Jersey will likely be one of the first states to legalize sports betting.

Attorney Generals from Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wyoming and West Virginia all signed onto the lawsuit, along with governors from Kentucky, Maryland, and North Dakota, whose attorney general also signed.

Which states don’t want to legalize it?

It’s unclear if any states are aggressively against the legalization.

Is there anything that could stop my state from legalizing it?

The only way a state wouldn’t be allowed to legalize sports betting completely is if Congress enacted some kind of federal regulation of sports betting. There's no indication yet what Congress might do.

“Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each State is free to act on its own,” the court wrote its opinion. “Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PAPSA [the 1992 ruling on sports betting] is not.”

How long will it take for my state to legalize it?

It depends on the state, but one research firm estimates that over half the states in the U.S. will be offering sports betting within five years, according to ESPN.

What’s the impact on a larger scale?

The impact of the decision is expected to be huge. Nevada has been the only state allowed to offer sports betting options, and in 2017 alone, $4.8 billion in bets were waged in the state.

The American Gaming Association estimates that Americans illegally bet $150 billion on sports each year. Immediately after Monday's ruling, for example, DraftKings said it will enter the sports betting market, and the stock price for Caesars Entertainment rose 6 percent, according to CNN.

Cover image: Derek Stevens, owner of D Casino in Vegas, bet big on his alma mater Michigan to win the NCAA championship. He's shown at his casino, March 31, 2018. (Damairs Carter/MediaPunch/IPX)