Sports Leagues React to PASPA Overturn, Imminent Legal Sports Betting

The talk of the sports and gambling worlds this week has been yesterday’s 6-3 decision by the United States Supreme Court to strike down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), opening the door for states to legalize and regulate sports betting. It is expected that a handful of states, most notably New Jersey, will get sports betting up and running within weeks, while many more states may start hurrying up their own legislation.

The “enemies” of sports betting over the last decade and a half have been the four professional sports leagues (NBA, MLB, NFL, and NHL) plus the NCAA. They were the ones who lobbied Congress to enact PASPA and they were the ones who sued New Jersey whenever the state would make a move to legalize the pastime. Now that the Supreme Court has made its ruling, it should be interesting to see what the leagues do in the near future. Yesterday, they all issued short statements on the matter and contrary to what some people have thought, it does not look like – at least on the surface – that they have any near-term plans on fighting the gaming industry.

“Today’s decision by the Supreme Court opens the door for states to pass laws legalizing sports betting,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in his statement. “We remain in favor of a federal framework that would provide a uniform approach to sports gambling in states that choose to permit it, but we will remain active in ongoing discussions with state legislatures. Regardless of the particulars of any future sports betting law, the integrity of our game remains our highest priority.”

This is largely consistent with what Silver has said in the past; he has been the most outspoken league commissioner in favor of legalized sports betting, though he prefers federal regulation instead of state-by-state. Silver has said and written that since fans enjoy placing bets on sports and it has worked just fine in Europe, he would like the NBA to be able to take advantage of that somehow, provided strong federal regulations and safeguards are in place.

The NFL and its commissioner Roger Goodell have long pretended that they are against sports betting, though we all know that gambling and fantasy sports drive a large portion of the interest in the league. The NFL provided its statement yesterday:

The NFL’s long-standing and unwavering commitment to protecting the integrity of our game remains absolute. Congress has long-recognized the potential harms posed by sports betting to the integrity of sporting contests and the public confidence in these events. Given that history, we intend to call on Congress again, this time to enact a core regulatory framework for legalized sports betting. We also will work closely with our clubs to ensure that any state efforts that move forward in the meantime protect our fans and the integrity of our game.

There’s that word “integrity” again, the word that the leagues always use when arguing against sports betting. I’ve written about this before and may again this week, so I won’t get into it here, but their line is bullshit.

Major League Baseball also mentioned integrity.

“As each state considers whether to allow sports betting, we will continue to seek the proper protections for our sport, in partnership with other professional sports,” MLB said. “Our most important priority is protecting the integrity of our games. We will continue to support legislation that creates air-tight coordination and partnerships between the state, the casino operators and the governing bodies in sports toward that goal.”

The NHL actually seems rather unmoved by the whole thing:

The Supreme Court’s decision today paves the way to an entirely different landscape – one in which we have not previously operated. We will review our current practices and policies and decide whether adjustments are needed, and if so, what those adjustments will look like.

It’s important to emphasize that the Supreme Court’s decision has no immediate impact on existing League rules relating to sports wagering, and particularly, wagering involving NHL games. So, while changes may be considered in the future, today’s decision does not directly impact the operation of the League or any of our Clubs in the short term.

And then there is the NCAA, which traditionally takes the most exception to sports betting, as it feels the activity is particularly fearsome when it comes to the “integrity of the games.” The stance, while overblown, is actually reasonable in relation to the professional leagues, as a student-athlete, who doesn’t make any money, would logically be more easily tempted by gambling money than would a professional athlete who makes millions of dollars a year.

“Today the United States Supreme Court issued a clear decision that PASPA is unconstitutional, reversing the lower courts that held otherwise, said NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy in a rather subdued statement. “While we are still reviewing the decision to understand the overall implications to college sports, we will adjust sports wagering and championship policies to align with the direction from the court.”

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