June 6, 2018 By Wallin & Klarich

Every year, millions of Californians break the law.


Placing bets on March Madness brackets and office Super Bowl pools violates state laws prohibiting gambling on sports. However, a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling could pave the way for legalized sports gambling in California and other states.


Supreme Court Ruling Paves Way for Legal Sports Betting


Judge-Fs-Himself.jpgIn 1992, Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) to prevent state legislatures from legalizing gambling on sports such as football, baseball, basketball and hockey. The law excluded Nevada, Oregon, Delaware and Montana, the four states where sports betting was already legal.


Another unique part of PASPA gave the state of New Jersey a one-year window to enact proposed laws that would legalize sports gambling, but the state never did so. After several years, New Jersey wanted to allow sports betting, so they challenged PASPA in court. Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the state of New Jersey that PASPA was unconstitutional.


Under the 10th Amendment, Congress is not allowed to “commandeer” state governments and direct them to take specific actions that they would not otherwise take. In the New Jersey case (Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association), the Supreme Court ruled that is precisely what PASPA did, amounting to an order from Congress to state governments to not pass any law that would legalize sports gambling.


Is Sports Gambling Legal In California Now?


The Supreme Court’s ruling does not mean that sports betting is automatically legal in this state. The ruling merely removed a restriction on new laws to legalize gambling, which means states can pass laws to allow it. Several states already have bills in the pipeline to make those illegal bets legal. California legislators are considering an amendment to the state’s constitution to regulate and tax sports betting.


Still, even if states allow betting, there will be other hurdles to overcome. The major sports leagues have sent mixed signals about their feelings on gambling. The NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and the NCAA signaled their support for federal legislation to prevent sports gambling because of worries that betting could hurt the integrity of games. One need only look at the history of gambling scandals, such as the Chicago “Black Sox” scandal to throw the World Series, for evidence of gambling’s potential influence on the outcome of games.  However, leagues have expressed some degree of openness to legalized sports gambling. The key will be what sort of share of gambling revenue the leagues will receive.


Importantly, this ruling also does not mean that Congress can do nothing to prohibit sports gambling. As Justice Alito wrote in the decision, the Supreme Court only made a ruling on the fate of PASPA, not any other law that Congress might later pass to outlaw sports betting.


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


Do You Want California to Legalize Sports Gambling?


While it will take time to see the impact of this Supreme Court ruling, it opens the door for California lawmakers to legalize sports betting. Would you want California to legalize sports gambling? Do you already place bets on sports?


Wallin & Klarich wants to hear from you about this topic. Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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