Supreme Court decision could pave the way for legal sports betting

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The court struck down a 1992 law that had banned gambling on sporting events

The Supreme Court has handed down a ruling that very well may pave the way for legalization of sports betting across the U.S.

In a 6-3 decision made on Monday, members of SCOTUS struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). The 1992 law had previously prohibited states from sponsoring, operating, advertising, promoting, licensing, or authorizing sports gambling.

However, the panel ultimately ruled that PASPA violated the anti-commandeering rule, which bars the federal government from forcing state governments to act against their own will.

“Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, bit if it elects not to do so, each State is free to act on its own,” said Justice Samuel Alito. “Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PASPA is not.”

New Jersey challenge

The ruling is a direct result of a challenge posed by the state of New Jersey. State regulators had argued for years that PASPA violated states' rights by blocking attempts to legalize sports betting at in-state casinos and racetracks.

In his opinion to the court, Justice Alito stated that the law allowed Congress and the federal government to overreach by regulating “‘state governments’ regulation’ of their citizens,” adding that the “Constitution gives Congress no such power.”

News of the ruling was greeted optimistically by former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who originally filed the challenge.

“New Jersey citizens wanted sports gambling and the federal Gov’t had no right to tell them no. The Supreme Court agrees with us today. I am proud to have fought for the rights of the of the people of NJ,” he tweeted.

“PASPA was clearly unconstitutional, and the ban on sports betting has now rightfully been rejected by the court,” added Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ).

Demolition instead of salvage

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that the SCOTUS decision unnecessarily destroys PASPA instead of reworking it to make it viable. She points out that there are no problems with certain provisions of the law.

“When a statute reveals a constitutional flaw, the court ordinarily engages in a salvage rather than demolition operation,” she said.

Several states have already begun the process introducing legislation that would legalize sports betting, with several more likely to do so as a result of the decision.

Although many professional sports organizations have argued against legalizing sports betting in the past, several have softened their views in recent years and expressed the desire to regulate the industry.  

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