Americans invented slot machines and giant casinos, but sports betting is banned in 46 of its 50 states: The Supreme Court on Monday examined the possible abolition of that rule, a market of tens of billions of dollars.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a very active Republican in Donald Trump’s election campaign, has been seeking to organize this type of gambling for years in his state, home to Atlantic City, the gambling city on the east coast of the country.
But the courts inflicted systematic setbacks on him, building on a 1992 law that bans gambling on professional or college sports, except in four states where they already existed: Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon.
Congress passed this legislation on the understanding that gambling would threaten the integrity of sporting events.
The text had been defended at the time by Senator Bill Bradley, a former basketball star, alluding to the protection of young people.
– Corruption of youth? –
“Sports betting under the aegis of the states would send the message that, in sports, money is more important than self-improvement and sportsmanship,” said the Democratic legislator in defending his initiative.
The four major sports federations in the country, the NFL (American football league), the NBA (basketball), the MLB (baseball) and the NHL (ice hockey), endorsed that restriction.
At that time, Trump, faced with the financial difficulties of his casinos in Atlantic City, campaigned against the law, considering that sports betting could be a lifesaver.
The Supreme Court hearing on Monday brought to the fore an issue of more than two centuries in the United States: what is the responsibility of the states to regulate and what is the responsibility of regulating the federal power, preeminent by definition?
The Trump administration had ten minutes Monday to defend the federal rule.
Thus, Trump was on the same side as the NFL, an irony given the friction in recent months between the professional football league and the president, furious that some players refuse to stand up when the national anthem is played.
– A mana that everyone wants –
On Christie’s side, pragmatism is expected to prevail, as gambling at casinos and lotteries is established throughout the United States.
“Sports betting exists, (but) it is illegal,” said Theodore Olson, the New Jersey attorney in this case, lamenting that the state “cannot regulate this activity.”
Illegal sports betting currently represents a $ 150 billion annual market, according to the American Gaming Association (AGA).
This mana attracts not only New Jersey, but also 18 states that dream of seizing the opportunity. Public revenues, in terms of licenses and taxes, promise to be juicy.
Christian and Muslim religious groups are opposed and have presented arguments to that effect in the highest court.
And, beyond the principles, American sports federations seem less and less opposed to sports betting.
In November 2014, Adam Silver, the NBA’s general commissioner, published a column advocating a complete change in the matter.
The Supreme Court will make its decision in the first half of next year.