For years now, the state of New Jersey has been in a legal battle with the US federal government over the legalization of sports betting. Atlantic City is one of the top casino destinations in the United States, but has been struggling to compete with the growing number of local, tribal, and online casinos Americans now have access to, not to mention the fact that Las Vegas is a bigger tourist destination than New Jersey.
Another factor that New Jersey and other states with legalized gambling miss out on is sports betting. Las Vegas is the only place in the US with legal sportsbooks, and other states see how much money casinos make on sports bets and want in on the action. Just in 2015, over $4 billion was gambled on sports in Vegas, with the casinos taking in a record $231.8 million. In addition, illegal sports gambling accounts for up to 90% of the total amount bet on sports outside the legalized casinos in Las Vegas, with a large amount being wagered on offshore online casinos throughout the world.
As a result, Pennsylvania is looking into how it can push the federal government to lift the ban on sports betting. A bill urging the US Congress to repeal the prohibition passed the House Gaming Oversight Committee on Tuesday, February 9, 2016. If the federal government repeals or alters the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, Pennsylvania is signaling it will allow its casinos to run sportsbooks.
Sports betting has had a long and difficult history in the United States. Only three states, Nevada, Oregon, and Montana, were grandfathered in under the 1992 law and can legally take bets on sports. However, only Nevada has established sportsbooks in the state, with Oregon and Montana declining to open casinos that allow gambling on sporting events. Delaware allows only certain types of sports bets called parlays, making Nevada and Delaware the only two states in the nation where any type of sports bets are allowed to be placed.
The other states in the country are not allowed to take bets on sporting events under the federal law, and any attempt to change or challenge the law has been met by opposition from the professional sports leagues (NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB), along with the NCAA. The amount of lobbying power these five leagues have has kept sports betting from being seriously reconsidered by Congress.
However, that may all be changing soon, as the rise of Daily Fantasy Sports leagues is changing the perception of what is and is not gambling on sports. The sports leagues hold the position that betting on individual players does not threaten the integrity of the game, while betting on individual team matchups would.
With New York moving to restrict Daily Fantasy Sports and label it as sports betting, plus the sponsorship the major leagues have with the DFS companies, it may open the door to more legalized sports gambling sooner rather than later. And if it happens, Pennsylvania and New Jersey will be some of the first states to start taking wagers on sporting events.