Professor Jodi Balsam Says SCOTUS Decision on Sports Gambling Has Pitfalls

The Supreme Court cleared the way on Monday for states to legalize sports betting, striking down a 1992 federal law, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), that had prohibited most states from authorizing sports betting. The ruling is a victory for New Jersey, which was at the center of the case, and other states who have considered allowing sports gambling as a way to encourage tourism and tax revenue. The NCAA, NFL and NBA had backed the federal prohibition.

Professor Jodi Balsam, a sports law expert and former in-house counsel at the National Football League, spoke with Law360 about the decision and what it means for the gaming industry and states that wish to legalize sports betting.

Balsam said one of the most concerning aspects of the decision is that the Justices found that no part of PASPA is severable, including prohibitions on the advertising of sports betting. She thinks lawmakers could still address potentially harmful advertising, but said it is unlikely that Congress will now re-enact PASPA in a way that is constitutionally sound. Instead, she believes there will be a state-by-state patchwork regulation of sports gambling, which could be problematic.

“All over the country, every state is dealing with it in their own different way, imposing costs and adding to consumer confusions, and that is still playing out,” Balsam said. “Existing federal regulations might be able to offer some sort of consistency or uniformity” but it appears the courts will be “very deferential to the states and will not enable that sort of consistency.”

Balsam believes patchwork regulation will make it difficult to enforce the few federal laws that still apply, for example, the prohibition on internet gambling: “This law survives but applies only to wagers that are unlawful under state law. What if you’re a gambler in a state where sports betting is illegal, and you wish to place an online bet on a gambling website hosted in a state where gambling is legal? Hard to imagine the feds pursuing this case,” she said.

Balsam worked for the NFL for 12 years prior to teaching. At the Law School, her courses focus on Professional Responsibility and Sports Law.

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