The gambling expansion bill signed by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf at the end of October includes in it the legislative thumbs-up for sports betting.
The catch? The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) doesn’t allow sports betting in Pennsylvania because the state didn’t have it when PASPA was signed.
So, in order for sports betting to take place in Pennsylvania, PASPA needs to be overturned. Up until 2017, the thought that PASPA would be dissolved was merely conjecture.
That changed when, earlier this year, the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to hear the appeal of New Jersey and its Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. The two parties fought their way through the legal system to the highest court in the land in an effort to bring legal sports wagering to the Garden State.
The state and the association are arguing that PASPA violates what’s known as the anti-commandeering principle. This is an aspect of the 10th Amendment asserting that Congress can’t pass laws violating states’ right to pass their own laws.
A brief the state filed earlier this year put it this way: “PASPA compels States to regulate—indeed, prohibit—sports wagering and therefore exceeds Congress’s authority.”
Will SCOTUS overturn PASPA? Trends say yes
Over the past few months, there have been several studies that indicate public sentiment about sports betting has changed, namely in the way that Americans seem to have stopped viewing it as a scourge.
The most notable of these studies was one highlighted in a Washington Post article that pointed out that, for the first time since PASPA kicked in in 1993, the public is in favor of sports betting.
A few weeks later, think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute indicated that New Jersey will be the first of many states to legalize sports betting once PASPA falls.
The organization’s report addressed the anti-commandeering principle. It further noted that PASPA’s initial intent — curbing illegal sports betting by regulating legal sports betting — failed in the midst of a multi-billion black-market gambling economy in the US.
“No matter how one feels about sports betting or any other issue in particular, the importance of preserving the states’ right to make their own decisions on these matters should be painfully clear,” the report said. “PASPA has failed to stop the spread of illegal sports gambling, prompted the rise of an enormous gambling black market, increased criminals’ profits, prevented states from raising millions in tax revenue and enacting consumer protections.”
SCOTUS will hear the case on Dec. 4 and make a decision by the beginning of next summer. At that point, we’ll know the extent to which PA can apply its theoretical legalization of sports betting.