On May 14, 2018, the Supreme Court issued a landmark 6-3 ruling in favor of striking down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (“PASPA”), which came into effect in 1992. PASPA was a federal law that barred state-authorized sports gambling on baseball, basketball, football and several other sports; a few states, however, and particularly Nevada, were exempted from the law because they had approved some form of sports wagering prior to when the law was enacted.
The decision in Murphy v. Ncaa, Nos. 16-476, 16-477, 2018 U.S. LEXIS 2805 (May 14, 2018) originated in a case from New Jersey, where the state argued that PASPA violated the Tenth Amendment because it was essentially compelling states to prohibit sports wagering. Writing for the majority, Justice Alito held that “[j]ust as Congress lacks the power to order a state legislature not to enact a law authorizing sports gambling, it may not order a state legislature to refrain from enacting a law licensing sports gambling.” Id. at 40-41. With the federal ban on sports gambling lifted, states are now given the green-light to legalize sports betting if they choose. In the months leading up to the high court’s decision – and assuming that PASPA would be struck down – various research firms estimated that at least 30 different states would likely offer sports betting within the next five years.