Under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992, sports gambling is illegal in all but a few states, including Oregon, Delaware, Montana, and Nevada. A one-year window of opportunity from January 1, 1992, the effective date of PASPA, was provided by Congress to states that had licensed casino gambling for the prior 10-year period, to enact laws that allowed sports gambling. However, New Jersey neglected to pass any such laws during the time frame allowed, and in recent years, the state, along with other states, has attempted to convince the federal government to revoke this law in an effort to increase tax revenues.
Advocates of the repeal of PASPA contend that the law is unconstitutional in that the Constitution allows the states to enact its own laws regarding rights that are not expressly granted to the federal government, including gambling regulation. New Jersey has become involved in federal litigation over sports gambling in an effort to legalize the activity. In its lawsuit, the state alleges that PASPA is unconstitutional in that it discriminates among the states by permitting four states to provide sports gambling, and disallows the practice in 46 states.
Other states, including Rhode Island, Missouri, and Iowa, have also tried to have PASPA repealed, and a state senator from California has publicly revealed his support for the New Jersey lawsuit, stating that legalizing sports gambling would help to raise much-needed revenue for the state. New Jersey has posed a similar argument, especially in light of the rising competition it faces from new casinos located on Native-American reservations as well as from those in Las Vegas.
However, New Jersey’s attempt to have PASPA repealed, resulted in the decline of the U.S. Supreme Court to review the lower court rulings that upheld PASPA. Central to the case of legalizing sports gambling is the dispute over the doctrines of anti-commandeering and equal sovereignty:
- Anti-commandeering – this doctrine is based on the 10th Amendment, and says that the federal government is disallowed from forcing state officials to apply federal law.
- Equal sovereignty – this doctrine says that the states are to be treated equally by the federal government.
Those opposed to the repeal of PASPA include the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, and the National Football League, all of which filed a lawsuit alleging that New Jersey’s Sports Wagering Law contradicts PASPA. The court ruled that PASPA pre-empted the New Jersey law.
In an effort to evade federal law, a bill was introduced in New Jersey that would allow sports gambling at privately owned casinos and racetracks. This may be a better avenue for sports betting than to repeal PASPA because, an increase in gambling among college athletes would likely be detrimental to the sport in that people would be more concerned about the outcome of the bet, and not how the game ends, or the impact of the game’s outcome on the university or the community.