Goodwin Gaming
May 14, 2018

Parting with PASPA: U.S. Supreme Court Paves the Way for Regulated Sports Gambling


Earlier today, New Jersey won a sweeping victory in Murphy v. NCAA, a case challenging the constitutionality of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA).  As David Apfel and Brian Burgess recently explained, the parties’ arguments focused on whether the federal policy requiring states to maintain prohibitions on sports wagering violated the Tenth Amendment’s “anti-commandeering doctrine.”

The Court held that the PASPA provision “prohibiting state authorization of sports gambling . . . violates the anticommandeering rule” because it “dictates what a state legislature may and may not do.”  The Court also determined that PASPA’s prohibition of licensing sports gambling “suffers from the same defect as the prohibition of state authorization” because it “issues a direct order to the state legislature.”  Without these two provisions, the Court reasoned, the rest of PASPA could not stand.

The Court’s opinion (and separate opinions by the Justices) can be found here.  Justice Alito wrote the majority opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Thomas, Kagan, and Gorsuch.  Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor dissented.  Justice Thomas filed a concurring opinion, and Justices Breyer and Ginsburg filed dissenting opinions.

Several states will likely move quickly to enact licensed sports wagering schemes in the wake of the Murphy decision.  New Jersey, of course, is primed to launch sports betting soon.  As is West Virginia, which preemptively enacted a sports wagering law in the event that the Supreme Court invalidated PASPA.  In the coming weeks, the Goodwin Gaming Blog will cover legal developments as other states consider sports betting schemes in a post-Murphy gambling world.