Many Americans bet on sports, but only one state allows legal, widespread sports gambling – Nevada. The Supreme Court recently invalidated a federal law that restricts sports betting. West Virginia is poised to take advantage.
That state’s legislature passed a bill this year that would legalize wagering on sports events if the Supreme Court overturned the federal ban. Some casinos in that state were already making plans to offer this type of betting if the court issued a favorable decision. Now that the court has ruled, casino operators say that they can begin allowing such games within three months of a court ruling.
Prior to the court’s decision, federal law only allowed sports betting in Nevada, Delaware, Montana, and Oregon. A 1992 federal law banned states from authorizing these games except in the four states whose laws already allowed such wagering. Of these four, only Nevada has an active sports betting scene, with casinos in that state offering a variety of propositions from which gamblers can choose. Delaware casinos offered a limited opportunity for gamblers to bet on football games.
In recent years, many states have expanded gambling. As they have done so, they are looking for new avenues to attract customers. Sports betting is something that lawmakers in a number of states have talked about doing, but they had been stymied by federal law.
At issue before the Supreme Court was a law in New Jersey that attempted to legalize sports gambling. In 2011, voters approved the law by referendum, and then-Governor Chris Christie began implementation even though he knew the federal government would push back. Lower federal courts have ruled that the New Jersey law violated the federal law that bans states from authorizing sports betting.
During arguments before the high court last year, lawyers representing New Jersey seem to have found a receptive audience from a majority of the justices. These justices seemed skeptical that it was proper for the federal government to place such a restriction on state governments. They also worried about this ban violating federalism, since gambling regulations are traditionally a state area of regulation.
The major sports leagues support the federal gambling ban. In the past, they have worked together to thwart efforts by states to weaken the prohibition. Now that the Supreme Court has overturned the federal law, however, there will likely be a number of states that will legalize sports betting. West Virginia is already poised to allow casinos to offers such wagers.
Do you think that sports betting should be legal in more states? Or will expanding sports betting harm consumers and hurt the integrity of sports?