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Pending outcome of Supreme Court ruling, states poised to legalize sports betting



Gambler sitting at a machine

John Burger - published on 02/12/18

Legislators, encouraged by what they heard in oral arguments, already crafting legislation

It can be dicey to predict the outcome of Supreme Court cases. But with a decision expected by June on the issue of sports gambling, at least 20 states are already crafting legislation to allow the practice.

The case before the nine Justices—Christie v. NCAA—comes from a suit in New Jersey. Then-Gov. Chris Christie sued the federal government to strike down a law preventing the state from allowing gambling on sports. NBC News explained that the Garden State argued that the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act violates the 10th Amendment, which the Supreme Court has said prohibits federal laws that would compel states to carry out federal dictates:

The gambling law, the state argued, forces states to bar sports wagering. The act is unusual because it does not ban sports gambling nationwide. Instead, it says the states cannot permit it. A handful of states, including Nevada, were exempted from the law under a grandfather clause.

Some other states were encouraged by what they heard in oral arguments before the Court and are already “setting up the legislative framework” to legalize sports gambling, NBC said.

“Looking at the landscape, as far as this case, it seems like a good time to really move forward with this,” said Indiana state Rep. Alan Morrison, whose proposal to pre-emptively authorize sports wagering — on the contingency of a favorable Supreme Court ruling — has been cited as a model across the U.S. of solid “if, then” sports betting legislation. “We’re not trying to buck existing federal law,” said Morrison, a Republican, referring to HB 1325, which he wrote. “We just think we should be able to offer additional options at our facilities if it should become legal.”

His bill authorizes sports wagering at casinos, racetracks, riverboats, “racinos” and satellite facilities, like state-sanctioned Off-track Betting operations, after the state gaming commission “determines that current federal prohibitions on sports wagering are no longer applicable,” the news outlet said.

The legislation also puts in motion measures to provide licensing and regulation for mobile sports wagering — placing bets on sporting events through phone apps — and provides guidance for legal monitoring, consumer protections and taxation. It contains a 1-percent tax proposal on bets on certain professional sports games that would go to the leagues to fund a framework to ensure that players and coaches aren’t throwing games. Exactly how such “integrity monitoring” would work hasn’t been explicitly defined. But league officials and state legislators suggested that leagues could be able to impose restrictions on the types of bets placed. Details are still being hammered out, but leagues could also be provided access to the data bookmakers use in making odds and spreads on games.

Other states where legislators have been busy on the issue include:

Pennsylvania and Connecticut, which enacted narrower measures contingently legalizing sports betting in late 2017.

Ohio and Kentucky, where lotteries or casinos or racing is legal, like, have proposed extending the authority of the existing commissions that oversee those activities to include sports betting.

New York, whose Senate’s Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee held a hearing designed to help build the proper statutory framework for such a law.

And who is opposed? The NCAA, which sued to put an end to New Jersey’s push to legalize sports betting in the first place, has repeatedly said it could hurt the integrity of its games, according to NBC.

“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 wrote on its site.

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