Supreme Court Opens State Sports Betting Flood Gates, Sen. Hatch Offers Federal Framework

Today the Supreme Court released its opinion in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, rejecting the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), a federal statute which effectively banned sports gambling in most state jurisdictions.  In a six to three opinion, the high court reversed a 2016 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which upheld the federal law.  Importantly, the court affirmed Congress’s authority to regulate sports betting directly.  However, the court struck PASPA on the grounds that the statute infringed on a state’s ability to “authorize” gambling within its jurisdiction, thereby violating the constitutional principle of “dual sovereignty.”  The court states that in the event Congress doesn’t place direct regulations on gambling, then states are free to enact betting laws as they see fit. 

While today’s decision gives the green light for individual states to move forward with sports gambling schemes, Congress was quick to offer a legislative fix to address the role of the federal government in sports gambling activity.  Not long after the release of the Supreme Court decision, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) announced that he plans to introduce legislation that he states will remedy a “patchwork” of state laws that won’t adequately protect the “integrity of sports.”  As an original sponsor of PASPA when it was enacted in 1992, Sen. Hatch states that his legislation will “protect consumers, safeguard against underage and problem gambling, and help states who choose not to permit sports betting within their borders.”

“Until today, pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing has been the only legal form of sports wagering available throughout most of the United States at both physical locations and online. Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled PASPA unconstitutional, states are free to regulate sports betting as they see fit. Horse racing must rise to the challenges and seize the opportunities presented by this expansion of sports betting,” stated Alex Waldrop, Chairman of AHC’s Racing Committee and President of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. 

AHC will provide a more detailed analysis of the Supreme Court decision and legislative responses during the days ahead.  To view a copy of the Supreme Court decision, please click here:  https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/17pdf/16-476_dbfi.pdf.  To view a copy of Sen. Hatch’s (R-UT) announcement for a federal framework for sports gambling, please click here: https://www.hatch.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/releases?ID=02C2FD7A-6D68-40B9-8002-BA458CF4DD4F