Supreme Court allows states to legalize sports betting
© WikiMedia (Jarek Tuszyński)
Supreme Court allows states to legalize sports betting

The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Monday in Murphy v. NCAA [SCOTUSblog materials] that the decision of legalizing sports gambling should be left to state lawmakers.

The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) [text], passed by Congress in 1992, made it unlawful for a state to authorize these gambling schemes, allowing the Attorney General and various sports organization to bring civil actions to enjoin any violations.

In the majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito highlighted the importance of maintaining aspects of state sovereignty, especially the principle that restricts the federal government from commandeering the states themselves to enforce regulatory programs. The PASPA provision that prohibits state authorization of sports gambling violates this anti-commandeering rule.

Alito wrote that “legalization of sports gambling is a controversial subject” in which the difficult policy choice is not the court’s to make. The court stated that Congress has the authority to regulate sports gambling directly, but if it decides against doing so, the states are free to act on their own.

The end of the opinion concluded that the PASPA is inconsistent with the Constitution, ultimately overturning the previous decision of the Third Circuit appeals court.

The court heard oral arguments [JURIST report] in this case in December.