On Monday, May 14, 2018, the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association. In this opinion, the Court ruled 7-2 in favor of striking down a Federal law which prohibited betting on sports, other than in narrowly defined exceptions. The ruling is a victory for States’ rights, and may have greater implications for the States in the Union, in the future.
In 1992, Congress passed the “Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act” (PASPA). Effectively, PASPA prohibited the states from promoting, allowing or authorizing gambling on sports activities, except for “sports lotteries” in Oregon, Delaware and Montana, and certain gambling activities in Nevada. PASPA also contained an exception that gave states which previously had allowed casino gaming in the past ten years a one-year grace period to pass laws legalizing sports betting. PASPA did not apply to gambling or betting on certain activities, such as jai alai and horse and dog racing.
In 2011, voters in the State of New Jersey approved a referendum to allow sports betting within the state. In 2012, the New Jersey legislature passed a law allowing sports wagering at casinos and racetracks. Various professional sports leagues, including the National Hockey League, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and the National Football League filed suit against the state, claiming that the 2012 law violated PASPA. The State of New Jersey was unsuccessful in trying to enforce the 2012 law allowing sports betting until the case was accepted by the United States Supreme Court in 2016.
The Supreme Court’s opinion, authored by Justice Samuel Alito, held in substance, that the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which holds that powers not expressly delegated to the Federal government are reserved for the states, prohibits the States from being required to enforce a Federal statutory scheme. The distinction is that while the Federal government is free to pass and enforce laws related to subjects of Federal importance, it cannot and may not require the States to pass and enforce laws substantially of Federal origin.
Post-Murphy, the States are now free to authorize sports gambling within their borders, as the majority of PASPA has been struck down as unconstitutional in light of the Tenth Amendment. This does not mean that sports gambling will be legal in all states, including Tennessee; it simply means that the States are no longer prevented from crafting laws approving sports gambling. The next step following this case would be for the respective State legislatures to pass laws allowing sports gambling.
Looking ahead, Murphy is an important opinion in the field of States’ rights and the Tenth Amendment. The Murphy opinion gives some support to the notion that the States may be allowed to pass laws of purely state concern, without interference from the Federal government.
To learn more about this opinion, as well as other Supreme Court opinions, visit scotusblog.com
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