Supreme Court sports betting decision and what it means

On Monday the Supreme Court announced its decision regarding New Jersey’s push for legalized sports betting, ruling that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) is unconstitutional and opening the door for more states to pursue legalization in the near future.

There’s still a long way to go before placing a sports bet is as easy as buying a lottery ticket — the future of sports betting in America will depend on how individual states decide to proceed from here. For now, the federal ban on sports betting is no more.

Below we break down the biggest questions a casual sports fan might have about the decision from the Supreme Court and do our best to answer them.

What exactly did the Supreme Court rule?

The Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) is unconstitutional. PASPA was passed in 1992 and served as a blanket prohibition on state-sponsored sports betting, save for a few states (e.g. Nevada) that were grandfathered in under the previous allowances.

The law was found unconstitutional on the grounds of states’ rights. Judge Alito, a native of New Jersey, 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. Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PASPA is not.”

What changes now?

With the decision, states are now free to determine on their own whether they believe gambling on sports should be legal within their borders. New Jersey has already passed such laws, and Monmouth Park reportedly hopes to begin taking sports bets within two weeks of the ruling. Chances are other potential sports books in New Jersey will be gearing up with the hopes of being ready to go before the start of the NFL season.

When will it be legal elsewhere?

Legal spots gambling in other states depends on when they decide to take action. States including Delaware, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia have all shown interest in legalizing sports betting as well — some had already passed legislation — and will likely begin building up the necessary infrastructure to start taking bets as soon as regulations can be established and set in place. The exact timeline until when you can place a legal wager will all depend on how quickly a given state is ready to push through legislation of their own.

Can I legally bet online?

Not yet, but likely in the future. New Jersey will start with brick-and-mortar ticket-taking. But as more investments come into the industry and sports betting becomes more prominent, it’s not difficult to imagine a future where placing bets is as easy as opening an app on your phone.

How do the leagues feel about it?

Leagues had expressed concern over what legalized sports betting might do to influence the possibility match-fixing, and had proposed a 1% integrity fee on all bets placed — likely far too steep of a request for the gaming industry. Still, there are plenty of ways for the leagues to generate revenue from this new development, from rights to set up gambling outlets in stadiums to partnering with sportsbooks for sponsorship deals.

sports book
The Supreme Court ruled that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) is unconstitutional — here’s what that means, and how it will effect the near future of gambling in America.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

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