Like bettors clutching tickets as racehorses thunder into the stretch, the gaming industry anxiously awaits a Supreme Court ruling that could allow sports wagering to expand nationwide.
A case pending before the high court challenges the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a 1992 federal law that outlaws sports betting nationwide except for Nevada and three other states.
New Jersey, which would like to legalize sports betting, is challenging the law in the case Murphy vs. NCAA. The federal government and the NCAA defend the current law, which its supporters see as promoting integrity in sports.
Along with creating new opportunities for its members, the American Gaming Association trade group contends expanded legal wagering would also dent an estimated $150 billion annual illegal sports betting market in the United States.
The trade association filed a brief with the Supreme Court in favor of overturning the ban, which is often referred to by its acronym PASPA. The group echoed the plaintiffs in the case, arguing Congress overstepped its constitutional authority by requiring states to enforce federal law.
“When you look at the mountain of evidence about this 25-year-old federal law, everything says that it has been an abject failure,” Chris Cylke with the AGA told KNPR's State of Nevada.
Cylke said times and opinions have changed. While sports betting was once seen as something seedy, it is now a huge business that people agree should be regulated and taxed.
Should the Supreme Court overturn PASPA, states would be allowed to create their own sports wagering regulatory structures. The American Gaming Association recently held a summit meeting to prepare stakeholders for possible outcomes from the litigation.
Cylke said no one can predict exactly what the court is going to do but most everyone believes the least likely thing it will do is nothing.
“I think there is a general sense of optimism that the ban will be effected in some meaningful way,” Cylke said.
While Nevada could lose its near-monopoly in legal sports betting, the state’s innovative gaming industry would adapt, just as it did when casinos expanded nationwide in the late 20th Century, predicted gaming journalist Chris Sieroty.
“Nevada is a unique place because it is a destination” that caters to creating experiences for its visitors, said Sieroty, who is U.S. editor for Gambling Compliance, an industry information service.
Sieroty said several states, besides New Jersey, are likely to allow betting quickly - if the court rules in favor of the casino industry.
Justices heard arguments in the case in December and a ruling is expected this spring.
Chris Cylke, American Gaming Association; Chris Sieroty, gaming journalist
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