September 5, 2017
By Megan Wilson
The American Gaming Association on Tuesday filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of New Jersey, which wants to end the federal ban on sports betting.
The 26-page amicus brief takes aim at the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), passed in 1992, that prohibits states from allowing sports betting.
The legislation, the brief argues, “prevents States and tribal sovereign governments states from repealing or amending laws that their citizens no longer support.”
The U.S. Supreme Court in June agreed to hear New Jersey’s challenge to the federal ban on sports wagering and betting. The case is pitting several states, law enforcement groups and gambling advocates against college and professional sports leagues.
It stems from a lawsuit filed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Football League (NFL), the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Hockey League (NHL), looking to stop New Jersey from legalizing sports betting in the state.
The Supreme Court's decision is expected next year, with arguments on the case taking place during the term that begins in October.
The ban, the gaming association says, “has failed,” pointing to the level of illegal gambling that still occurs.
“The [association] estimates that Americans illegally bet over $150 billion per year on U.S. sporting events. Earlier this year, Americans bet an estimated $15 billion on the Super Bowl and NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament alone, and 97% of those bets were made illegally,” the group's brief reads.
The trade group that represents casinos, among others in the gambling industry, also touts the billions in tax revenue that states could earn by legalizing and regulating sports betting, saying that up to 152,000 jobs could be created.
The gaming association and its allies say they are optimistic that the court will rule in their favor.
Legalizing sports betting, said American Gaming Association president and CEO Geoff Freeman in a conference call Tuesday, is “closer than any point in the last 25 years,” citing the growing number of states that have introduced legislation to legalize the practice. Eighteen states have signed on to a separate amicus brief in support, which West Virginia is expected to file in the coming days.
Some conservative-leaning states, such as Utah, that have supported New Jersey and its allies are not among those who want to bring sports betting to the state, but they are concerned about a ruling in the federal government’s favor.
It is “more of a defense of their state sovereignty … rather than simply the ability to legalize sports gambling,” said Michelle Minton, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, during the call with reporters.
“PASPA has thus had the perverse effect of pushing an enormous market underground by way of federal decree while stamping out state and local efforts to adapt their own laws pursuant to their own citizens’ wishes,” the American Gaming Association’s amicus brief reads.
“States like New Jersey are compelled, at the federal government’s direction, to keep their antiquated sports-betting laws and regulations effectively frozen in place at a federal standard. That result is irreconcilable with the constitutional system of dual sovereignty and dangerous in its own right,” it continues.
Earlier this year, the group formed the American Sports Betting Coalition to create a unified front on the issue among different constituencies.
The National District Attorneys Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the U.S. Conference of Mayors are among those who signed on.
Cracks are beginning to form in the opposition from the sports leagues, with NBA commissioner Adam Silver predicting in July that “the law [on sports betting] will change in the next few years in the United States."
He called on Congress to “adopt a federal framework that allows states to authorize betting on professional sports, subject to strict regulatory requirements and technological safeguards.”
Other leagues, such as the NCAA, are standing firm.
“The NCAA opposes all forms of legal and illegal sports wagering, which has the potential to undermine the integrity of sports contests and jeopardizes the welfare of student-athletes and the intercollegiate athletics community,” the organization says in a section of its website on sports betting.