There is a momentum building around sports gambling in the United States. Several states have begun legislative efforts towards legalizing sports betting. As it stands now, sports betting is illegal in 46 states. This precedent is due to a governing federal law known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or PASPA, and says that “it shall be unlawful for a government entity to sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license or authorize by law or compact…a lottery, sweepstakes, or other betting gambling or wagering scheme based, directly or indirectly, on one or more competitive games in which amateur or professional athletes participate…” PASPA is in its 25th year of enforcement and has managed to stir up a bit of dissatisfaction during its tenure.
The law was passed with the intention of stopping the spread of sports gambling, though now there isn’t such a negative connotation associated with it. On the contrary, there is a growing sense of people wanting to engage in sports gambling. From a state standpoint, the sports gambling industry presents a feasibly attractive situation. While Virginia hasn’t drafter anything official on the subject, there are a few other states who have launched a sort of pro-sports gambling coalition. Out of these states, New Jersey has emerged as the leader with their aggressive tactics.
New Jersey has had sports gambling on their radar for some time now—not surprising, given their proximity to Atlantic City—and they’re acting as pioneer against the major sports leagues and the federal government. Governor Chris Christie signed a bill that allowed sports betting and that bill was even voted in by New Jersey residents, however it was quickly rebuffed after a lawsuit from the major sports leagues. The case has gone through several rounds of appeals and is now in the hands of the Supreme Court, who have requested that the Solicitor General make a statement on the issue before proceeding. New Jersey Congressmen Frank LoBiondo and Frank Pallone, Jr. have put together two bills to circulate through the House of Representatives. One of which attempts to exclusively remove New Jersey from PASPA’s reach and the other bill would allow for any state a four-year window to write and implement legislation that would regulate sports gambling. Other states like Michigan, Mississippi, New York and Pennsylvania have all either written bills in preparation for PASPA’s repeal or have at least expressed interest in sports gambling.
Even the major professional sports leagues—the biggest obstacles for any pro-sports gambling moves—have started to shift gears on the subject. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has long been outspoken against PASPA and believes the law should be repealed or at least amended. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has come out and said how the league will “reexamine” their stance on sports betting. The NHL just launched a franchise in Las Vegas, the premier sports betting destination in the country, and the NFL was trying to bring a team to Las Vegas earlier this year (though that deal fell through).
With New Jersey’s aggressive fight for state’s rights, other states pushing out bills in support of sports gambling, the major sports leagues loosening their restraint on the subject and even the new Presidential administration (which many believe will be pro-sports gambling), the sports gambling industry looks poised to fundamentally change this year. Virginia sports gambling is currently restricted to the use of offshore sportsbooks, though if Virginia decides to replicate the actions of some of these other states, it could certainly put the pressure on Congress to make some amendments to the sports gambling law.