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22 May 2018

NBA Betting: What's at stake after landmark ruling?

NBA Betting: What's at stake after landmark ruling?

Everyone is excited for legalized betting following the Supreme Court's landmark ruling. But it will be more important for states to get it right than simply being first.

(Photo Credit: USA Today Sports via Reuters/Trevor Ruszkowski)

Adam Silver saw it coming almost four years ago. 

Of the four major professional sports leagues in the United States, the NBA has usually been the one to tackle an issue head-on first. In 2014, the issue was gambling. The explosion of fantasy sports that started with Major League Baseball and sped up with the National Football League has now hit another gear with the growth of Daily Fantasy Sites.

What was once restricted to sports books in Las Vegas had spread, albeit slowly. Only three other states besides Nevada had a form of legalized sports gambling because they were exempted via grandfather clauses, but the internet made it equal parts more accessible and, perhaps more importantly, more acceptable to the public at large.

In an op-ed written by the NBA commissioner for The New York Times in November 2014, Silver put the league in the spotlight by being the first major U.S. sport to be in favor of legalizing gambling, albeit with federal oversight and regulations. He saw the winds of change that came with then-Governor Chris Christie's lawsuit against the NCAA arguing the Professional Sports and Amateur Protection Act (known as PASPA going forward) was unconstitutional because it violated the anti-commandeering rule as part of the Tenth Amendment.

Without trying to sound too wonky with all the legalese that came out of the Supreme Court's 49-page opinion handed down Monday, the decision by the plaintiffs, in this case the State of New Jersey, to argue the law was unconstitutional because it did not allow legislators to write any laws because PASPA had two interdependent clauses written to block such actions was a nifty bit of legal jujitsu.

But make no mistake, Monday's 6-3 ruling in saying PASPA was unconstitutional has opened Pandora's Box on a grand scale for legalized gambling in the United States. A handful of states, including New Jersey, are rushing to push bills through legislature they want to enact immediately with visions of rapidly filled coffers that can fund areas of need or otherwise throughout state budgets dancing in their head.

What of the sports though? After so many years of refusing to support legalized gambling in any place other than Las Vegas, there is now potentially billions of dollars that will flow in multiple directions through a framework of rules and regulations that at some point will have to be codified at the state level. 

While they will not say it aloud out of fear of looking greedy, the leagues want a piece of this newfound action. It will be a hard road for them to travel, though, since Las Vegas already has the framework most states will copy, one that does not include the "integrity fee" proposal championed by Silver and the NBA that the NFL and MLB have warmed to quickly. So let's look at what is at stake for sports in America by being able to put a five down at your local sports book as opposed to your friend who knows a friend who has the parlay strips at the corner bar.

Provided everyone can play nice and have a local sports book.