Will the Supreme Court Decision Legalize the Sports Gambling Business in Florida?
On May 14th, 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). In a (7-2) decision the nation’s top court ruled in favor of New Jersey in the case of Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, determining that a federal law that prevented the state from banning sports betting was unconstitutional
This decision could have dramatic ramifications for businesses in the casino industry all across the country. Though, there is some confusion over exactly what the Supreme Court’s decision means in different states. Here, our Miami business law attorneys explain the PASPA ruling and discuss the implications for businesses in Florida.
What is the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA)?
PASPA is a 1992 federal statute that outlawed sports betting in 46 U.S. states. Three states were given partial exemptions (Delaware, Oregon, Delaware) and one state (Nevada) was granted a full exemption. As a result of this law, sports betting policy was then taken out of the hands of state governments around the country. During the period that the law was valid, no other state had the ability to legalize sports-related gambling.
Why Was the Federal Law Ruled Unconstitutional?
New Jersey, the state with the largest casinos outside of the Las Vegas, challenged PASPA. Governor Chris Christie and the state legislature both wanted sports gambling to be approved in order to revive struggling casinos in Atlantic City. The state filed a lawsuit against the federal government challenging the validity of the law.
Although New Jersey lost with the lower court, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the state. Ultimately, the Court determined that PASPA violates the anti-commandeering principle in U.S. law. In other words, because the federal statute grants exemptions to some states, but prohibits any other state from ever getting an exemption, it is an impermissible restriction on each state’s powers. Under the United States Constitution, states must also have the ability to modify their own laws.
Does This Mean Sports Betting Will Be Legalized in Florida?
Not necessarily. The Florida state government now has the legal authority to allow sports betting. Whether or not it will do so remains to be seen. There is little question that certain states will move quickly to create a sports gambling business. Beyond New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Mississippi have also taken swift action to move towards legalization in the days following the decision. However, the situation in Florida is far more complicated. Currently, there is an anti-casino measure on the November 2018 ballot. If it passes, it would put up a high hurdle to any expansion of any type of gambling in Florida. Still, this issue should be watched closely, as new developments could occur quickly.
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