Internet gambling in the United States has been limited to just three states since it began in 2013, but it could soon get a big boost from an unlikely source: the U.S. Supreme Court.
Some gambling industry officials, regulators and analysts think that a favorable ruling by the high court in New Jersey’s challenge to legalize sports betting could also lead to an expansion of internet gambling.
“If we win sports wagering, online gaming will go to every state that adopts sports betting,” said David Rebuck, director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, who predicts a favorable sports betting ruling could help internet gambling “explode” across the nation. “As soon as sports wagering is legalized, online gambling will follow right behind it.”
The Supreme Court will hear arguments in New Jersey’s case on Dec. 4; a ruling could be weeks or months away. The state is taking aim at a 1992 law that forbids state-authorized sports gambling in all but four states that met a 1991 deadline to legalize it: Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon. Nevada is the only state to allow single-game wagering.
The sports leagues oppose the lawsuit, arguing that legalized sports betting could taint the public’s perception of the integrity of their games.
Experts think that the sports betting legislative push would likely help expand internet gambling. David Schwartz, who runs the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Las Vegas-Nevada, says that offering online casino games and sports betting would go hand-in-hand online.
“It makes a lot of sense to offer sports betting over the internet,” he said. “Once you have the systems for letting people bet on sports in place, it isn’t a huge step to permit them to bet on casino games or poker as well.”
The law in question is the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). Texas doesn’t have a direct stake in this, just the same potential to allow online sports gambling if it wanted to if the plaintiffs succeed, but it does have a position, in favor of overturning PASPA.
Texas joined an amicus brief siding with New Jersey in favor of overturning the federal law, arguing that sports betting should be up to the states and not the federal government.
Attorney General Ken Paxton signed on to the brief, not to legalize sports betting, but to keep the federal government out of state decisions.
“PASPA is unconstitutional and tramples on state sovereignty,” Paxton told the American Sports Betting Coalition. “By ending PASPA, states can rightfully decide whether they want regulated sports betting or not.”
That means Paxton is on the opposite side of the debate from the White House. The U.S. solicitor general’s office has sided with the sports leagues and will join them for the court’s oral arguments Dec. 4.
But Paxton hasn’t shown any signs of wanting sports betting to be legal in the Lone Star State. In fact, the attorney general has been at odds with daily fantasy sports sites for years.
In 2016, Paxton issued an opinion that deemed paid fantasy sports sites to be illegal gambling.
If SCOTUS sides with the state of New Jersey and throws out PASPA, it would not change the debate about expanded gambling in Texas, but it would raise the stakes as there would be more things we could expand it to include. I could imagine there being more pressure on the Lege to take it up, but that doesn’t mean it would be any more successful than previous efforts. Like I said, worth keeping an eye on.