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Major sporting leagues’ power over betting prohibition questioned

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MAJOR sporting leagues in the US should not have a say in whether betting is prohibited, according to the first amicus brief delivered to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) will hear the New Jersey sports betting appeal either at the end of the year, or at the start of 2018.

Arguments for and against the appeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) have been formulated and the first brief regarding the case has been delivered to SCOTUS.

In the brief, Florida State associate professor, Ryan Rodenberg, questions why sporting leagues such as the National Football League (NFL) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) have so much power over the wagering industry.

He doesn’t specifically argue for or against the appeal in one of the first of many filings from interested parties. Instead, he argues that the leagues should not have the legislative power to prohibit gambling, as the PASPA facilitates.

He also argues that all US states should be treated equally.

“Two PASPA-specific features — PASPA’s offloading of regulatory authority to private entities and PASPA’s unequal treatment among the States — raise constitutional issues,” Rodenberg said.

“The way PASPA regulates — as demonstrated in this case with the Federal Government absent as a litigant and only Respondents furthering the PASPA claims against Petitioners — is by outsourcing a form of privatised regulatory power for unilateral use against the States.”

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He uses a number of unlikely scenarios to explain the nature of PASPA and why it operates unfairly in relation to the wagering industry.

“In this case, five sports leagues who claimed to have an anti-sports gambling stance twenty-five years ago have now weaponised PASPA to prevent some states from enacting certain forms of sports betting legislation.”

Rodenberg also addresses the issue that not all states are treated the same when it comes to PASPA.

PASPA was introduced to stop the spread of sports betting in the US. States which legalised sports betting prior the legislation have been made exempt due to the language of the act. The four states grandfathered – in other words exempt – from PASPA include Nevada, Oregon, Delaware and Montana. Nevada is the only state which offers legal single-game betting.

Non-grandfathered states are completely prohibited from legalising sports betting.

Rodenberg believes the idea of grandfathered and non-grandfathered states violates “the equal sovereignty doctrine”.

“First, PASPA differentiates favoured grandfathered states and non-grandfathered states, with the latter completely barred from legalizing sports betting within their borders,” he said.

“Second, Nevada is treated more favourably than some of the other exempted states.”

Rodenberg is not alone in his argument for equal sovereignty, with New Jersey, which has been fighting for states to have the right to legalise sports betting since 2012, hoping to prove PASPA violates the equal sovereignty doctrine.

Meanwhile, sporting codes will be fighting for the act to be deemed constitutional.

Are major sporting leagues changing their stance on sports betting?

The NFL is still strongly against legalising sports betting but other leagues could be changing their stance.

At a panel titled “GameChangers: Creating the Future of Sports” on Tuesday night, NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, spoke about the potential changes in relation to PASPA.

“My sense is the law will change in the next few years in the United States,” Silver said at the Paley Center for Media.

“People want to bet throughout the game … It results in enormous additional engagement with the fans.”

Additionally, the Major League Baseball (MLB) is seemingly becoming more open to the legalisation of sports betting.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters last week that he wants to be ready if there is a regulatory change.

He added that the league should have an input on the regulatory structure.

“There’s a difference between someone betting on whether the next ball is a strike or betting on the outcome of a game,” he said during the talk on Tuesday night.

The National Hockey League (NHL) has been somewhat quiet about the matter but commissioner, Gary Bettman, commented on Tuesday night stating it wasn’t an issue.

“We’re a small part of betting compared to football and basketball,” Bettman said.

“…I don’t worry about fixing games.”