The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (abbreviated PASPA) is a since-overturned 1992 federal law that banned sports betting across the United States. Only four states which previously had legalized sports lotteries or pools were exempt. In 2018 PASPA was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States allowing states to enforce their own sports betting laws. We will take a quick look at the history of PASPA and how it’s repeal affects American bettors.
PASPA Senate Hearings
On June 26th, 1991 the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Patents, Copyrights, and Trademarks held public hearings in which the topic of sports betting was brought up. It was determined that sports gambling posed a national problem even in states that had not legalized it. The Senate ruled that sports betting had interstate ramifications that were not being covered by the 1961 Federal Wire Act; which prohibits the transmission of betting information across state lines.
Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act
PASPA goes into effect on October 28, 1992. The federal law revokes the power of the states to pass their own sports betting legislation. This effectively outlaws sports gambling in the United States. The exemptions to PASPA are the states that are already operating licensed sports wagering services. This is limited to four states: Delaware, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon. Congress provides all states that have been operating licensed casinos one year to pass sports betting legislature. New Jersey is the best candidate for this but fails to take advantage of it.
New Jersey Lawsuits against PASPA
In March 2009 New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak funds his own lawsuit against PASPA. He claims that the federal law is unconstitutional as it discriminates against the 46 states that do not have sports betting legislature. The case is thrown out with the courts stating it must be brought on by New Jersey governor Chris Christie. New Jersey holds a non-binding referendum in November of 2011 where voters backed legalized sports betting by over 66%. On May 24th, 2012 governor Chris Christie announces plans to bring sports wagering to New Jersey race tracks and casinos. He anticipates resistance:
“We intend to go forward and allow sports gambling to happen, if someone wants to stop us, they’ll have to take action to stop us.”
He was correct. On August 7th, 2012 the NCAA, NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB file a lawsuit against New Jersey stating that their proposal violates PASPA. The state counters with the argument that PASPA itself violates the Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution which reserves all states any rights not explicitly granted to the federal government (which includes gambling regulation). The court rules against New Jersey agreeing with the leagues that their law violates PASPA.
Supreme Court overturns PASPA
New Jersey files an appeal for their lawsuit. On September 17th, 2013 it is ruled that while their proposed law does violate PASPA there is no federal law against repealing any existing legislature that outlawed sports betting. New Jersey attempts this in 2014 and is met with another lawsuit by the major sports leagues. The case titled Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association was brought to the Supreme Court and accepted on June 27th, 2017. The court heard oral arguments on December 4th, 2017 and ultimately ruled PASPA unconstitutional on May 14th, 2018.
Does PASPA repeal make sports betting legal?
The Supreme Court’s decision that PASPA is unconstitutional allows states to create their own sports betting legislation. This means it is up to each state to decide if they should legalize it. You can track each state’s legislative status as of September 2023 with our betting map. When a state passes the necessary laws licensed and regulated online sportsbooks will open. Americans from all 50 states are still able to safely bet on sports using offshore betting sites.
Our recommended US betting sites September 2023: