When the Supreme Court ruled that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) was unconstitutional, that decision wasn’t expected to usher in a unilateral acceptance of sports betting across the United States. Instead, its repeal in 2018 gave states the autonomous power to implement their own laws, rather than simply accepting the restrictions laid out by PASPA.
The Supreme Court’s decision, that PASPA violated the Tenth Amendment, has had the consequences that many anticipated; some states were swift to permit sports betting, others have remained staunchly opposed to legal gambling, while several states are still legally defining their stance on sports books.
The first to act
New Jersey was the fulcrum in the challenge to overturn PASPA, with the state’s governor Phil Murphy lending his name to the crucial case that was presented to the Supreme Court: Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association. The Garden State legalised sports betting a month after PASPA’s repeal, with that legality covering both sportsbooks at land-based casinos and specialist online betting sites.
Mississippi, Delaware, and New Mexico also moved quickly to legalise sports betting within a couple of months of PASPA’s repeal. The nature of the Supreme Court’s ruling meant that states were not forced to adopt a uniform position on sports betting. This is why state by state betting guides are essential for anyone trying to get their head round the diverse range of positions towards gambling across the United States, as the legality of sports betting can alter dramatically as you cross state lines.
For example, Delaware was quick to permit sports wagering at its land-based casinos, but there is no official approval of online betting within the state. Mississippi allows electronic sports betting to take place at physical venues, but punters are unable to bet on mobile devices when roaming the Magnolia State. New Mexico’s legal sports betting is restricted to one tribal casino, whereas Pennsylvania has legalised both retail and online sports betting. There is no simple yes/no answer to the question ‘is sports betting legal?’, as each state has its own interpretation of a post-PASPA world.
Legislature on the horizon?
It is expected that those states that only offer physical sports betting, such as Delaware and New Mexico, will eventually pass legislature on online gambling. As 2020 heads towards its conclusion, 34 states have legalised some form of sports betting. Utah, Ohio, and Wisconsin have all committed to outlawing sports betting and are not projected to alter their stance in the coming years, but there are a few states that could make significant progress towards legal sports betting in 2021 and beyond.
In the November election, South Dakota voters approved the act of sports wagering within the town of Deadwood. This doesn’t cover online sports betting, but the 2021 legislative session may see the state ratify the November vote and implement new laws on gambling.
Aspiring bettors in Louisiana are playing the same waiting game as those in South Dakota, with the majority of parishes in a November ballot agreeing to legalise sports betting in the Pelican State. Legislators should make a decision in the first few months of 2021, but it seems likely that physical sports betting in Louisiana will be approved in some form. Online may have to wait a bit longer.
Maryland citizens voted resoundingly in favour of legal sports betting in a November ballot, with the confirmation of this vote expected to permit sports betting in stadiums and casinos. This may take time as Maryland legislature has other priorities for 2021, but Jeff Ifrah is one Maryland expert who forecasts that the state will soon allow people to place bets through a mobile app as well as at physical venues.
Plenty more will change as states approve new legislature and as citizens vote on further ballots in the years ahead. The sports betting landscape in the United States is one that is constantly changing, but this is one clear benefit of the repeal of PASPA. By handing the power back to individual states, lawmakers can decide what is the right approach for their people.