Could the FBI arrest your grandmother for betting on the Super Bowl? Read this piece by V. Buchholz in Investors Business Daily:
The World Series is over and NFL playoffs will soon start, but the biggest sporting event of the year took place last month. And the refs didn’t wear whistles and stripes — they wore long, black robes.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case to repeal the federal ban on sports gambling. The justices should make the right call, repeal the ban, and get Washington, D.C., out of the business of deciding whether Aunt Harriet will be arrested for betting on the Patriots.
No Hidden Agenda: Get News From A Pro-Free Market, Pro-Growth Perspective
Back in 1992, years before Fantasy Football dominated water-cooler conversation and the World Series of Poker conquered ESPN ratings, Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) preventing betting on sports in every state except the lucky four that it grandfathered in — Nevada, Montana, Delaware and Oregon.
As a result, you can wager on the Knicks in Carson City, Nevada, but if you place a bet in Carson, California, the FBI might kick in your door and drag you off for questioning.
In 2011, New Jersey voted for a state constitutional amendment to permit sports gambling, which the state legislature enacted, only to be sued by the NCAA and the four major sports leagues. In the Third Circuit, the leagues prevailed over the voters of New Jersey, but a rematch was granted by the highest court in the land.
Now, this week, the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in Christie v. NCAA, led by the attorney general of New Jersey and supported by amicus briefs from 20 other states and several Indian tribes. If the Supreme Court does not strike down PASPA, Congress should quickly repeal the act.
The question here is not, “Will people gamble?” The question is, “Will they gamble safely?”
Americans spend at least $150 billion each year on sports betting, according to the American Gaming Association. The precise figure is uncertain. Why? Because players and bookmakers must hide their activity from the federal government.
By banning sports betting, PASPA drives activity under the table and funnels money into the pockets of old-fashioned, cigar-chomping bookies hiding in basements, or to the cyber-accounts of offshore bookmakers in the Caribbean with names like 1Vice and 5Dimes.
You have a choice between dealing with a Tony Soprano wannabe in Jersey or some guy in Jamaica wearing a Bob Marley beanie.
No wonder law enforcement agencies like the Fraternal Order of Police and the Major County Sheriffs Association have spoken out for repeal.
Not only does PASPA waste precious law enforcement resources to chase down sports bettors, it fosters criminal activity by making illegal bookmaking more lucrative for those who get away with it.
Without PASPA, states could generate revenue to support schools, hospitals, and people with gambling addictions. The District of Columbia and 43 states promote lotteries, which yield about $20 billion for state budgets.
In contrast, PASPA prevents 46 states from generating tax monies for needed programs, instead driving those monies offshore or to the four grandfathered states (which, by the way, also support repealing PASPA).
Oxford Economics estimates that legalized sports betting would create up to new 152,000 jobs in the U.S., along with an extra $5 billion in tax revenue.
Where do professional sports teams stand on the issue? With the exception of the NBA, which supports repeal, other leagues are cowering in their clubhouses, issuing hypocritical statements, mumbling about integrity, and probably placing side bets on the outcome.
The NHL speaks out against repeal, but gladly located its newest team, the Golden Knights, in Las Vegas.
The NFL celebrates the Raiders’ upcoming move to Las Vegas, where fans will use iPhones to bet while sitting in the bleachers. Outside of Nevada, the NFL runs its own fantasy leagues in every state and directs teams to display fantasy statistics on stadium jumbo screens.
The NFL would, no doubt, be “shocked, shocked” to find out that some fantasy participants make money on the games.
In last year’s Super Bowl, fans wagered $4.7 billion. Ninety-seven percent of those fans were breaking the law. Is it the fault of the fans or of an outdated, puritanical law?
When the Supreme Court hears arguments, the justices should think of the late Antonin Scalia. Not for his piercing intelligence, nor for his sharp writing. But for his after-work activities. “I’m a damn good poker player,” he told New York Magazine.
The justices should honor their former colleague, and the majority of good Americans, by letting them go about their lives without sending agents from Washington, D.C., to bust up the office pool. There are no winners under PASPA — only losers.