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US Supreme Court's ruling opens door to legalized sports betting

LAS VEGAS - MARCH 19: the Mirage Resort Race and Sports Book in Las Vegas is shown crowded with basketball fans during NCAA March Madness Tournament March 19, 2010, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Glenn Pinkerton/Las Vegas News Bureau via Getty Images)
by Samindra Kunti, AIPS Media

In a landmark decision the US Supreme Court struck down a federal law on Monday that prohibits sports gambling. American states can now legalise betting on sports.

The Supreme Court decision - The Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a 1992 law that prohibited state-authorised gambling with a few restrictive exceptions, by 6 votes to 3. In the past, Nevada, given an exemption in the 1992 law, had been the only American state where a person could bet on the results of a single sports game. The ruling ends a six-year legal battle between the state of New Jersey and the NCAA, the body that governs college sports, NFL, NBA and the NHL respectively.

The 1992 Act - Senator Bill Bradley, Democrat of New Jersey and a former basketball star with the New York Knicks and the Olimpia Milano, was one of the principal backers of the 1992 Act. Bradley said the law was needed to safeguard the integrity of sports. The Supreme Court, with its decision, has deemed the law unconstitutional.

Rationale behind the decision - “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. PASPA is not.”

Against illegal betting? - The American Gaming Association estimates that Americans illegally wager about $150 billion on sports each year and the ruling may be in seen light of creating a more regulated and transparent, commercial betting market, no longer forcing Americans to use illicit bookies. Geoff Freeman, the president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, said in a statement that the court's decision is "a victory for the millions of Americans who seek to bet on sports in a safe and regulated manner.”


Bill Bradley, who later became a democratic senator, during his playing days for the New York Knicks. (Photo by Getty Images)

Christie in the thick of it - In 2012, the sports leagues sued Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey. They won every step of the way until the Supreme Court decided to hear the case. Christie tweeted after the ruling that it was a "great day for the rights of states and their people to make their own decisions."

States to enact - The ruling allows states to offer legal sports betting. New Jersey will be the first state to do so. Delaware, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are among the states expected to quickly get in on the act of the legal bookmaking game.

Other jurisdictions - With the ruling, the United States joins other jurisdictions that allow legal sports betting, including Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, France and Italy.

Leagues’ resistance - The American sports leagues have long resisted the introduction of legalised betting for a number of reasons: they fear exclusion from the revenue generated by the gambling industry. The leagues are also wary of corruption through match-fixing.

NBA position - "We remain in favour of a federal framework that would provide a uniform approach to sports gambling in states that choose to permit it, but we will remain active in ongoing discussions with state legislatures," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. "Regardless of the particulars of any future sports betting law, the integrity of our game remains our highest priority.”

MLB integrity concern - The Major League Baseball said in a statement that the ruling will have “profound effects" and that it will "continue to seek the proper protections for our sport, in partnership with other professional sports.

"Our most important priority is protecting the integrity of our games," MLB's statement said. "We will continue to support legislation that creates air-tight coordination and partnerships between the state, the casino operators and the governing bodies in sports toward that goal.”

NFL echoes MLB - “The National Football League’ s long-standing and unwavering commitment to protecting the integrity of our game remains absolute," the league said. "Congress has long-recognized the potential harms posed by sports betting to the integrity of sporting contests and the public confidence in these events. Given that history, we intend to call on Congress again, this time to enact a core regulatory framework for legalized sports betting. We also will work closely with our clubs to ensure that any state efforts that move forward in the meantime protect our fans and the integrity of our game."

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