Taking a Gamble: The Implications of Legal Sports Betting

Keegan Kerr ‘20

Last May, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. The law had banned sports betting in most states, with Nevada being the only state with a preexisting legal sports wagering market. The 6-3 majority opinion declared the law unconstitutional because it violated each state’s 10th Amendment rights. But the real questions remain: What states will legalize sports betting, and how will it affect professional sports?

New Jersey without a doubt was the most eager state to legalize sports gambling. In 2011, the state added a constitutional amendment legalizing it and a few years later the state legislature passed laws and regulations supporting the industry. Other states ready to capitalize on the Supreme Court’s decision include Maryland, Delaware, Indiana, and West Virginia, with a plethora of other states looking on with interest of their own.

Massachusetts bettors may have to be patient if they hope to someday be betting in their home state. Right now there is no legislative framework for regulating or legalizing sports gambling, and it could be up to two or three years before any proposed ideas could be implemented. However, Governor Charlie Baker is open to the idea and is looking further into the matter.

Supporters of legal sports gambling argue that legalization will get rid of a massive black market of illegal betting, with some estimating that over $150 billion dollars are wagered on collegiate and professional games a year. State-legalized betting would create a safer market for those wishing to gamble while bringing in possibly hundreds of millions of dollars a year in tax revenue for the state. Opponents to legalization argue that legal sports betting could corrupt professional sports and ruin the integrity of our favorite leagues and teams. They fear modern-day versions of the 1919 World Series or Pete Rose scandals, in which cases the players profited off of bets within their own sports.

No longer will bettors have to travel to Las Vegas or engage in illegal and sometimes unsafe deals in order to bet on their favorite teams. In the very near future you may be able to gamble at your local casino, or even on your smartphone device. Whether you’re in favor of it or not, the Supreme Court’s decision is no doubt going to have a profound impact on how America gambles on sports.