Prohibitive Failure: The Demise of the Ban on Sports Betting

59 Pages Posted: 14 Oct 2018 Last revised: 28 Feb 2019

Date Written: September 23, 2018


On May 14, 2018, the United States Supreme Court struck down the federal prohibition on sports gambling. The sweeping opinion, authored by Justice Alito, ended more than a quarter-century old policy that kept states from offering sports gambling and therefore, sports betting was confined almost entirely to illegal underground markets. Indeed, the sports betting prohibition is largely responsible for the growth of the illegal sports gambling market, which is now one of America’s 20 largest industries. The challenge to the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was initially launched by former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, in 2012, when the former U.S. Attorney, Christie, signed a bill licensing sports betting at New Jersey casinos and racetracks. Almost six years later, Governor Philip Murphy would see New Jersey prevail at the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court decision holding that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was unconstitutional because of its commandeering of state legislative bodies was an impactful decision bound to have implications across a variety of topics, ranging from state legalization of marijuana to so-called sanctuary cities. This paper explores the origins of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act by detailing the political conditions which gave rise to the statute and then examines the practicalities of the sports betting prohibition. In the second section, this article discusses the demise of the prohibition and the eventual defeat at the Supreme Court. In section three, this article elucidates the remaining obstacles to expansion of sports betting at the state and federal level. In section four, this article recommends several provisions that would serve the interests of all, in new legal markets before concluding with brief discussion of the broader implications of the fall of the prohibition.

Keywords: Sports betting, Supreme Court, Prohibition, Federalism, Anticommandeering, Preemption, gambling, sport, sports law

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K11, K19, K20, K23, K29, K30, K39, K40, K49, L50, L59, L80, L83, L89, O34

Suggested Citation

Holden, John, Prohibitive Failure: The Demise of the Ban on Sports Betting (September 23, 2018). Georgia State University Law Review, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

John Holden (Contact Author)

Oklahoma State University ( email )

201 Business Building
Stillwater, OK 74078-0555
United States

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