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Supreme Challenge

AGA challenges sports betting ban with amicus brief

In November, the American Gaming Association, through an amicus brief filed to the United States Supreme Court, argued that the failed federal ban on sports betting is driving a $150 billion illegal market, and detailed its support of New Jersey’s push for legalized sports betting.

The brief argues that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) is unconstitutional and should be overturned in favor of statewide regulations on whether to legalize sports betting. New Jersey appealed to the Supreme Court last month challenging the legality of PASPA, which currently limits legal sports betting to four states.

In September, AGA released two reports on sports betting. “The Key to Sports Integrity in the United States: Legalized, Regulated Sports Betting” details how the United States would benefit from adopting an approach similar to that in the United Kingdom to allow legal, regulated sports betting in an open and transparent market to protect the integrity of sports.

The second report, “Law Enforcement Summit on Illegal Sports Betting: After-Action Report,” authored by former law enforcement officials such as former Deputy Director of the FBI Tim Murphy and former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, found that PASPA is fueling a massive underground betting market and should be repealed.

The 24-year-old failed federal ban—which is breathing life into a $150 billion illegal sports betting market—threatens the integrity of games, presents fundamental questions about states’ sovereignty to define their own laws and combat crime within their borders, and prevents fans from engaging with the sports they enjoy in a safe, legal way.

Since President George H.W. Bush signed PASPA into law in 1992, trillions of dollars have been bet on sports illegally. AGA estimates fans across the country will bet $90 billion on NFL and college football games this season. However, $88 billion—or 98 percent—of all bets will be made illegally thanks to the federal government ban.

Fans also agree that it’s time for a new approach. A recent survey by leading public opinion researcher Mark Mellman found that 80 percent of NFL fans want to change current law. Further, a change in law would boost sports leagues and the media companies that pay billions for the rights to broadcast games. Seventy percent of fans are more likely to watch a game if they’ve wagered on it; nearly two in three say they follow teams more closely if they’ve placed a bet.

Perhaps most significant is that professional sports leagues are taking a different approach to sports betting. The long-outdated myth is that sports betting would threaten the integrity of games. However, it’s an illegal market that threatens games.

At Global Gaming Expo 2016 in September, the premier casino industry trade show, former NBA commissioner David Stern said, “Over time I’ve come to accept the notion that a properly run gambling operation is protective, and not deleterious, to the health of sports.” Current NBA Commissioner Adam Silver offered his support in 2014 when he said, “I believe that sports betting should be brought out of the underground and into the sunlight where it can be appropriately monitored and regulated.”

AGA will continue to drive the national conversation on sports betting in 2017, engaging key stakeholders and empowering sports fans to let decision-makers know that the time has come to make a change to PASPA. Influential organizations such as the National Conference of State Legislatures and the U.S. Conference of Mayors have already indicated a willingness to examine whether a fresh approach to sports betting is warranted.

The AGA plans to build on the momentum and create a broad coalition of interested parties to effectively educate members of Congress and the general public next year.

Our industry is aligned—from Nevada casinos to regional operators—and the AGA will continue the effort to change this outdated law.