PASPA: Awaiting the Supreme Court Decision on Sports Betting

Much to the disappointment of many in the sports and wagering industries, the Supreme Court failed to issue a decision regarding New Jersey’s appeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) this month. Passed in 1992, PASPA bans sports gambling in the United States by prohibiting state governmental entities from sponsoring, advertising, operating, promoting, licensing or authorizing any betting, gambling, or wagering scheme based on amateur or professional athletic events. However, the Act includes exceptions for Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon, which already had legal sports wagering at the time the Act was passed and are therefore grandfathered in. A ruling in the case at issue, Murphy, et al. v. NCAA, could effectively open the doors to legalized sports gambling in the United States.

The State of New Jersey, through failed attempts to authorize gambling and repeal existing penalties on sports betting, has challenged the constitutionality of the federal statute on the grounds that it violates the 10th amendment’s “anti-commandeering” provision because it unlawfully forces certain states to adhere to the Act while exempting the grandfathered states. PASPA thus allows these grandfathered states to benefit from rights that others do not have. On the other side of the argument, the NCAA and various professional sports leagues including the NFL, NBA, and MLB sought to prevent the State from permitting such gambling, citing the importance of protecting the integrity of athletic games.

After oral arguments on the issue last December, there was a strong indication that a majority of the Supreme Court was poised to side with New Jersey and invalidate PASPA. If New Jersey prevails in having PASPA overturned, the path will be cleared for states to determine if they want to legalize sports betting in their respective jurisdictions. According to the American Gaming Association, Americans bet as much as $150 billion a year on sports events, but only 3% of that amount is wagered through legal and regulated gaming, mostly in Las Vegas. Therefore, the potential financial implications of invalidating PASPA would be significant. The silence from the Supreme Court this month means the future of PASPA is yet to be determined.


Matt Bonesteel, “If sports gambling is legalized, the NBA wants in on the profits” The Washington Post (January 25, 2018), https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2018/01/25/if-sports-gambling-is-legalized-the-nba-wants-in-on-the-profits/?utm_term=.14f678d73ed2

Jill R. Dorson, “What is PASPA, The Federal Ban on Sports Betting?” Sports Handle (February 13, 2018), https://sportshandle.com/what-is-paspa-sports-betting-ban-professional-amateur-sports/

Stephen A. Miller, “NJ’s Supreme Court Gamble: Garden State Takes on PASPA” The Legal Intelligence (November 9, 2017), https://www.law.com/thelegalintelligencer/sites/thelegalintelligencer/2017/11/09/njs-supreme-court-gamble-garden-state-takes-on-paspa/?slreturn=20180205142328

Ryan Rodenberg, “Handicapping when Scotus will rule on NJ betting case” ESPN (February 7, 2018), http://www.espn.com/chalk/story/_/id/22355958/sports-betting-ranking-potential-dates-supreme-court-rule-new-jersey-sports-betting-case

David G. Savage, “Supreme Court may be about to legalize sports betting in states that want it” Los Angeles Times (December 4, 2017), http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-court-sports-betting-20171204-story.html

David Sheldon, “PASPA Repeal Odds Lengthen, Supreme Court Sports Betting Decision Could Come Monday: States’ Rights at Issue” Casino.org (March 4, 2018), https://www.casino.org/news/paspa-repeal-odds-lengthen-supreme-court-decision-possible-monday

David Wallach, “How the Supreme Court Could Hand a Win to New Jersey and Sports Betting” Forbes (December 11, 2017), https://www.forbes.com/sites/danielwallach/2017/12/11/supreme-court-ncaa-christie-nj-betting/