High Court overturns ’90s era ban on sports gambling

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – You may soon be able to roll the dice on your favorite sports team in Michigan.

The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a 1992 federal law keeping states from allowing sports betting.

Under Monday’s ruling, states like Michigan could still ban sports gambling on their own, but that’s unlikely. 

“All you’ve got to say is, ‘You know what, (with) sports gambling we’ll take the taxes, we’ll fix the roads. Boom! Everyone’s in favor of it,” said Curt Benson, professor emeritus with Western Michigan University’s Cooley Law School.

“The states are going to be under tremendous pressure to say ‘Hey, authorize sports gambling.’ Take your 6 percent or… your 10 percent … it goes to the state’s revenue coffers,” said Benson. “Plus, people are now lawfully doing what we know they’re doing anyway.”

The American Gaming Association estimates that Americans illegally wager about $150 billion on sports each year.

Critics say the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act only helped support the sports betting monopoly held by Nevada and a handful of other states that had already allowed sports betting when the ban was enacted.

The original ban had support from the NFL, the NBA and the NCAA. Much of that support had to so with the sins of the past.

“They’re opposed to anything with even a whiff of gambling,” said Benson.

But in the 6-3 opinion, the high court is recognizing state’s rights.   

“The Court said, ‘No, there’s nothing in the Constitution that says Congress can tell the states what laws they must pass, what laws they cannot pass.’ And that’s what they effectively tried to do here,” explained Benson.

One research firm estimated before the ruling that if the Supreme Court were to strike down the law, 32 states would likely offer sports betting within five years.

States that decide to legalize sports betting will first have to come up with legislation and a framework to regulate it.

While Gun Lake, FireKeepers and other casinos told 24 Hour News 8 it’s too early to say how they’ll be impacted by the decision, Benson says their setups would lend well to sports betting in Michigan.

“This ruling has caught a lot of people by surprise,” said Benson. “But the casinos have been following this case for a long time. They’re ready to go.”

Congress could also step in and initiate its own ban, but Benson says that’s unlikely.

The original ban effectively pushed enforcement, and the cost of it, off on the states. If Congress votes to ban sports gambling, federal authorities would have to enforce it.  

— The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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