Supreme Court says states can approve sports betting


Associated Press

WASHINGTON

The Supreme Court cleared the way Monday for states coast to coast to legalize betting on sports, breaking a longtime ban and creating a potential financial boon for states and the gambling industry. The first bets could be placed within weeks.

Despite opposition from the major sports leagues and the Trump administration, the high court struck down a federal law that had barred betting on football, basketball, baseball and other sports in most states. States that want to take advantage of the ruling now will generally have to pass legislation to allow sports books to open. Some, including New Jersey, which brought the case to the Supreme Court, have a head start.

Sports leagues had expressed concerns about any expansion of sports gambling. Their huge businesses could be badly harmed if people thought the outcome of games could be altered by someone who had wagered money on a certain result.

However, the ruling also could be seen as merely bringing an activity out of the shadows that many people already see as a mainstream hobby. Americans wager about $150 billion on sports each year illegally, according to the American Gaming Association. The law the justices struck down forbade state-authorized sports gambling with some exceptions and made Nevada the only state where a person could wager on the results of a single game.

Stock prices for casino operators and equipment makers surged after the ruling was announced.

The decision had been eagerly anticipated by gamblers and also states that hope their cut of legalized sports betting can help solve budget problems. Five states have already laid the legal groundwork, including New Jersey, where one racetrack said it would begin taking bets within two weeks.

In Pennsylvania, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill last year that authorized sports books at the state’s casinos along with mobile and online sports betting. But gambling industry leaders are skeptical that sports books will flourish in Pennsylvania because of the bill’s tax provisions: a 36 percent tax on gambling revenue and a $10 million licensing fee for sports book operators.

In West Virginia, lawmakers this year approved sports betting at the state’s five casinos and on approved mobile apps in the event of a Supreme Court decision repealing the ban. Republican Gov. Jim Justice allowed the bill to become law without his signature and later announced that he’d reached a deal for casinos to pay a fee to professional sports leagues to help them protect the integrity of their games. Casino operators, however, said the meeting with Justice ended without a deal and that casinos continue to oppose the fee. The leagues had lobbied unsuccessfully for such language to be part of the law.

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