In the UK and many parts of Europe, we take for granted our right to head into a betting shop and have a flutter or load up our preferred bookmakers’ app to have a dabble on a sporting event that tickles our fancy.
Surprisingly for a country that bills itself as the ‘land of the free’, sports betting remains illegal in the US to this very day. And it is believed that a staggering $150 billion is wagered on sports illegally each year on American soil.
But that could all be about to change with a verdict due on a landmark case in the state of New Jersey.
If Phil Murphy, the governor of New Jersey, can get his landmark bill over the line it could trigger an avalanche of states following suit and chasing the big bucks that the betting industry is proven to generate.
What is the Case Being Made?
The Garden City state has a long and complicated with gambling. It is one of the few areas of the US where gambling in casinos is legal, and the former governor, Chris Christie, wanted to extend that relaxed view to sports betting.
But a number of organisations, including the NFL and the NCAA, sued Christie in an attempt to stop him overturning the laws set out in the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) and the Federal Wire Act; a trio of statutes which prohibit sports betting in any form to this day.
Punters with an inquisitive disposition can find ways to get a bet on – some online sportsbooks base themselves in jurisdictions beyond US control – but by-and-large there is no way to wager in the land of the free.
And so Christie, and now his successor Murphy, are looking to change that. They made a ‘Hail Mary’ appeal in June, basically a ‘long shot’ in British parlance, that was accepted by the Supreme Court, and since then they have been building a case.
Have They Got a Chance?
It certainly seems that way, with the court deliberating over the matter for a number of months. New Jersey’s case has been supported by 18 US states and three other governors, while legal ‘observers’ present in the court have intimated that the proceedings have been going well for the pro-betting group.
Perhaps the key factor came in December, when the NBA and MLB joined forces to add their weight to the legalisation argument, lobbying in a number of states for the ban on betting to be lifted.
What Happens Next?
There is no deadline set in stone for the Supreme Court to make their decision, but within a couple of weeks or a few months sports betting could well be legal in New Jersey, who would join Nevada as the only states where gambling on sports is allowed.
But this case is set to be something of a landmark, and if the courts rule in favour of Governor Murphy then it should spark a complete sea-change in the USA in attitudes towards gambling.
Indeed, it is believed that up to 24 states are planning their own submissions for discussion, with Pennsylvania, Connecticut, West Virginia and Mississippi already believed to be at an advanced planning stage.
By the end of 2018, it is expected that sports betting will be completely legalised by a number of states – fantastic news for the industry.