Philip J. Outhier, Attorney at Law


In 1992 Congress enacted the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). In short, the law banned sports betting in all but a handful of states. All of that changed, however, on May 14, 2018, when the United States Supreme Court decided Murphy v. The National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Justice Alito wrote the opinion, which was argued before the Supreme Court on December 4, 2017. The decision concluded that PAPSA violated the “anti-commandeering” doctrine implied within the 10th Amendment of the United States Constitution. That doctrine provides that if the Constitution does not specifically reserve a power to the federal government, that power is reserved for the states. The provision got its name because it is a bar to the federal government “commandeering” the rights of the individual states to enforce federal law. In its reasoning, the majority determined that PAPSA interfered with the right of a state to pass laws to legalize and regulate sports betting.

The major take away here is that sports betting is not suddenly legal in all states. Each state is required to pass necessary legislation to effectuate that result. This recent decision of the Supreme Court does however open the door to sports betting in those states who choose to legalize it. Approximately a dozen states have already adopted such legislation. National statistics reflect that illegal sports betting is a $150 billion business. It appears there is opportunity out there for state coffers and gamblers alike!

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