Will President Trump Change the Course of Sports Betting in the United States?

Earlier this month, the United States Supreme Court chose not to strike down New Jersey’s challenge to the federal ban on sport betting, but rather called upon President Donald Trump and his administration to opine on the controversial issue. This decision comes after New Jersey’s multi-year long fight to convince the federal government to end its ban on sport betting, in order to benefit New Jersey’s struggling casinos and racetracks.

As background, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) has prohibited most states from authorizing sports betting, except for a few grandfathered states (including Nevada). After being blocked by the PASPA for nearly 25 years, New Jersey attempted to repeal its sports betting restriction at all of its casinos and racetracks — an attempt to bypass the PASPA’s prohibitions. However, the Third Circuit shut down New Jersey’s attempt.

While Trump’s stance on the issue was not made clear during his time on the election trail, nor since taking office as President of the United States, many speculate Trump favoring a repeal of the PASPA. During the 1990s, Trump called for the legalization of sports betting, when New Jersey was offered a one-year time frame to pass a law that would exempt it from the PASPA — an opportunity it did not take. However, experts predict that it will be difficult to ascertain whether he will support sports betting, “as it has been tough to pin down his position on a number of issues throughout his campaign and into his first weeks as president.” Gambling law attorney, Dennis Ehling, stated: “[i]f you look at PASPA, it looks like the kind of interfering regulation that tells states what they can or cannot do, that is contrary to what Trump has been touting. . . He has been in favor of getting rid of restrictions that limit what states and businesses can do.” Even though history supports the theory that Trump would favor this repeal, Jeff Sessions (Trump’s pick for attorney general) appears to oppose the expansion of online gambling, as he has called for stricter enforcement of online gaming under the Wire Act.

Those in favor of this repeal argue that a new industry — such as sports betting — could generate additional tax revenue, or even may be necessary to “protect the integrity of games.” Also, it is argued that PASPA’s ban on sports betting has been unsuccessful, as estimates value the illegal gambling market at hundreds of billions of dollars. As support, the American Gambling Association maintained that more than $4 billion was illegally wagered on this year’s Super Bowl.

While the Commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver, favors a federally regulated system of sports betting, other leagues such as the NFL and NCAA remain opposed to such an idea. However, experts state that most leagues prefer a federal system —r ather than leaving it to the states.

With the possibility of the Supreme Court hearing New Jersey’s case, Trump and Congress may be pressured into taking a closer look at sports betting, and re-evaluating PASPA’s prohibition of sports betting. If Trump and his administration come out in favor of a repeal, decades of illegally deemed behavior may become legal on a state-by-state, if not national, basis. But, if Trump disapproves, and the Supreme Court denies New Jersey’s motion, casinos stand to lose billions of dollars to the world of underground sports betting.


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