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After more than two decades, sports betting is finally becoming legal in the United States.
In this video we explain why it was banned in the first place, and how a lawsuit between New Jersey and the NCAA went all the way to the Supreme Court and ended up giving every state in the country the right to legalize sports betting.
The federal legislation that banned sports betting was called the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, PASPA for short, and it was signed into law in 1992.
PASPA made it illegal for any person or group to allow sports betting, even state governments.
There were a few exceptions, Nevada being the big one, but by and large betting on sports was off limits everywhere in the US.
Like all prohibitions, PASPA just sent sports betting underground and eventually offshore.
When the internet made it possible for offshore betting sites to accept bets from people in the US, billions of dollars started leaving the US every year, headed for online casinos and sportsbooks based in other countries.
At the same time, attitudes towards gambling in general were softening all over the US.
Casinos and lotteries became more and more common and started generating serious revenue for state governments.
Americans were already betting on sports using offshore sites and but PASPA made US sportsbooks illegal everywhere except Nevada.
PASPA’s eventual downfall started in 2011 with a non-binding referendum in New Jersey on whether to amend the state constitution to allow sports betting.
The vote passed and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed legislation making sports betting legal.
In response, New Jersey was sued by the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and the NCAA on the grounds that PASPA made it impossible to legalize sports gambling.
The sports leagues won that battle and sports betting remained illegal despite widespread public support.
In 2014 Christie drew up another bill and this time he took aim directly at PASPA.
It sounds like a loophole but Christie’s new bill only sought to decriminalize sports betting at specific locations in the state. By not technically legalizing sports betting Christie argued that the move didn’t violate PASPA.
Christie further argued that if decriminalizing sports betting did violate PASPA, then in fact PASPA was unconstitutional because it infringed on the state’s rights to govern itself.
Major league sports sued New Jersey all over again and the case eventually made it all the way to the Supreme Court.
On May 14, 2018 the court agreed with New Jersey and kicked PASPA to the curb.
The Supreme Court decision didn’t legalize sports betting but it did give each state the legal right to make its own laws on the matter.
Less than a month after PASPA bit the dust, legal sports betting was available in New Jersey and Delaware.
In the months that followed, more and more state lawmakers started introducing sports betting bills of their own.
Depending on the state, you can now safely place bets in person at casinos and sportsbooks, or online using betting sites and apps.
Looking to the future, with the exception of a few conservative holdouts, the majority of US states are expected to adopt some form of legal sports betting in the months and years to come.
If you’re curious about the latest changes to the sports betting laws where you live, check out the state by state guides on WSN.com.
We can help you find out if betting on sports is legal where you live and if it is, we’ll also show you the best online sportsbooks.
Thanks for watching and good luck.