Supreme Court’s Surprising and New Decision on Sports Betting Is About to Play a Critical Role in Changing Our Country

In the middle of May 2018, the Supreme Court struck down a ban on sports betting and is letting the states decide if it should be allowed. Sports betting has always been a gray area, legally, where some gambling was allowed. The sports betting ban came because of concerns about changing the nature or integrity of sporting events.

Now that it’s up to the states to decide, how will this 6-3 decision affect sports? And more significantly, how will this change the American political landscape? On page 5, we will discuss the far-reaching implications, but first, let’s understand this ruling. Take a look at how this unprecedented decision will have a broad effect on America in the future.

Why was this case before the Supreme Court?

A police officer stands guard on the steps of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC on a partly cloudy day
The steps of the US Supreme Court. | JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

The state of New Jersey and former governor Chris Christie filed a lawsuit against the federal government over the federal ban on sports betting in 2011. The lawsuit came after voters approved a measure to allow sports betting in the state of New Jersey. The NCAA and other professional sports agencies challenged that measure pointing to the ban made in 1992.

Next: If you are wondering about the bets you or your friends made in Vegas, here’s why that was allowed.

Sports betting was allowed in a few states

Congress outlawed betting in most states in 1992. | Tupungato/iStock/Getty Images

In 1992, Congress passed The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act that made it illegal to bet on sporting events. That law clearly dictated that any gambling around sports would be illegal except in some cases. Montana, Oregon, Nevada, and Deleware were exempted from the law because they already had sports betting industries set up. Removing them would be detrimental to their economies.

Next: You won’t believe how sports organizations are reacting.

Most sports organizations are very weary

Pro sports organizations are nervous. | Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Many of the organizations against this ruling are very concerned about how it will affect sports. The MLB, NBA, and NFL all said that they are going to make sure that the integrity of their sports is maintained. They also called for more regulatory framework moving forward.

Ted Leonsis, the owner of the Washington Capitals, Wizards, and Mystics, expressed great adulation for the decision. “It brings a multibillion-dollar industry out of the shadows and into the sunlight, where its integrity can be guaranteed and consumers can be better protected,” Leonsis wrote.

Next: Most of the justices supported changing the law, even the ones who voted for maintaining it. 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg voted to keep it, but knows change is needed

Justice Ginsberg dissented, but thinks that change is needed. | Paul Morigi/Getty Images for ELLE

Most of the justices saw that PASPA was an unfair law. How that law should be changed was where the majority of the disagreement came from. Ginsburg, who dissented along with Sotomayor, and Breyer, said that this decision is akin to taking an ax to the law instead of “a scalpel to trim the statute.”

Next: In a crazy twist of fate, this decision may actually end up benefiting sports industries and the country.

Sports betting increases interest and participation

Could betting get more people interested in sports? | Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Interest in NCAA basketball only peaks right at the end of the season. That’s when March Madness kicks in and everyone is apart of an office or family pool. Otherwise, uninterested parties are now glued to their screens and are analyzing every statistic they can get their hands on. All in the hopes of picking a winning candidate.

The same goes for most other sports and big events like the World Cup in soccer, the Super Bowl and Playoffs in football, or the World Series in baseball, to name a few. Sports betting is a huge help to the industry and gets everyone involved.

Next: There’s another area in American culture that is desperate for increased participation. 

What if you could vote on elections?

a line of white voting booths with American flags on them
Could gambling on elections come next? | Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

Gambling on political outcomes is banned in the U.S., but there is a loophole in the law that allows you to legally bet on elections. The only thing is, you have to be doing it for research. Firms use this little caveat to gather data to better predict how voters will decide by hosting events where participants bet on the outcomes of elections. That method of data mining is becoming increasingly popular in news networks.

Next: The results of these “research” events are fascinating.

People are challenged to think about the outcomes

People use free WiFi on their laptops at a cafe in Beijing
Could political betting be a good thing? | Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

Much like a person looking at the stats or events leading up to a boxing match, football game, or golf tournament, the participants are scouring the political data. They want to know what a candidate is doing so that they can make a more informed decision about who is going to win. Thus, increasing their chances of winning their bets.

In the 2016 election, only 61% of eligible voters participated. That’s a drop from the 63% that participated in the 2012 election cycle. The U.S. is far behind in electoral participation when compared to the rest of the world. It’s obvious that this is a problem and needs to change.

Next: Here’s what the ruling does for that prospect.

This ruling creates a precedent

Smiling lawyer holding file in courtroom
Coud lawyers use this a precedent in future cases? | Chris Ryan/OJO Images/Getty Images

Most legal changes come from precedents set by the Supreme Court. Hustler Magazine Vs. Falwell ended up establishing a more expanded understanding of the first amendment. That led to a lot of different satire being used in many different ways. Citizens United Vs. the FEC has forever altered the landscape of our political system. We’re not arguing the merits of either, but we are trying to say that these decisions have long-lasting implications.

The same could happen for sports betting. If the precedent for its ban was based on the risk of changing the nature or integrity of sporting events, the same could be said about the ban on election betting.

Next: The question is whether or not the people want to have that type of betting. 

Betting is a two-edged sword

Could gambling become a reputable industry? | Roger Jackson/Central Press/Getty Images

Gambling in any circumstance runs a serious risk of addiction. It has ruined numerous lives and shouldn’t be taken lightly. It has also, historically, been a bastion of corruption and gang activity. People opposed to either form of gambling often cite these issues as their main concern.

Proponents of gambling will point out that a regulated betting industry helps to maintain the integrity of not just the betting organization, but the fields in which they bet. The money generated through taxation is also instrumental in state and local governments.

Next: Beleive it or not, people used to bet on elections all the time. 

Election betting used to be very common

Teddy Roosevelt cartoon
Back in the wild days of Teddy Roosevelt, betting on politics was very common. |

Betting on U.S. elections was very common in the early 1900’s. Before the days of scientific polling, it was the best way to better understand the likely outcome of an election. News organizations are starting to pivot back to that by using those “research” groups that we mentioned before to better predict outcomes.

In the 2016 election, the South Point Casino started putting presidential odds up on their sportsbook screens. It was purely for entertainment purposes, but the intrigue was huge. Jimmy Vaccaro of the South Point Casino told CNN that people kept asking how they could place bets. If the bets were allowed he says “It would be the biggest thing we’d ever booked. It would make the Super Bowl look like a high school football game.”

For now, you will just have to stick to betting on sports, but someday you may be betting big on the underdog from Vermont.