Sports Betting: State or Federal Issue?

Erica Paul

Constitutionally, legislation surrounding gambling is supposed to be left to the determination of the states. As a condition of the Federal Interstate Horse Racing Act of 1978, the States should be allowed to have “primary responsibility for determining what forms of gambling can legally take place in their borders.”[1] The role of the Federal government in the issue is to protect states from other states interfering with their gambling policies, and to represent the national interests as a whole. Other important legislation was the passing of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 1992, which essentially prohibited states from having sports betting in their state. [2]

Sports’ betting is the most recent topic in gambling. The divide between the authority of the states and the federal government is clearly shown as the NBA puts pressure on Congress to make states legalize some form of sports betting. NBA commissioner Adam Silver advocates a “national law” that “allows states to authorize betting on professional sports.” [1] Nevertheless, Silver recognizes that it would be necessary to have severe regulations and technological precautions. Examples of such precautions are “minimum-age verification measures, geo-blocking technology,” as well as “mechanisms to exclude people with gambling problems.” [2]

The current state of the legislation of sports betting is that four states, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Delaware, allow it. A referendum was voted on by the people of New Jersey to approve it, but there have been some complications in the court. Governor Chris Christie allowed for sports betting at “casinos and racetracks,” but organizations such as the NCAA and other sports leagues are fighting it. [2]

Personally, I do not think that sports betting is a great idea. Despite that, since some states have already passed laws allowing it, it should be nationally allowed. The federal government should “create a federal framework that allows” all states individuals the ability to bet on sports. [3] Individual states will lose money, as their residents will go other places to bet on sports if they really desire too. In addition, illegal sports betting is a thriving underground business with no regulation at all, accumulating a possible $400 billion each year. [3] Also, Adam Silver’s description of how to regulate sports betting seems too intricate to be feasible. He describes finding a way to prevent gambling addicts from betting on sports, but it would be unconstitutional to prevent someone from doing something they want too. Minimum-age verification measures would be extremely difficult to implement. Ultimately, although I agree that sports betting should be legal, Adam Silver’s precautions seemed to be too involved to use realistically. In the coming years, it will be interesting to see where gambling, as an economic option for many states, will head. Many states have legal casinos, a whole lottery system, and few even have options for legal online betting. Going forward, it is hard to say whether or gambling of this nature will become universal and regular in our country. We will have to wait and see how the federal government responds.