Opinion

Their View | Congress, allow states to legalize sports gambling

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and the NBA recently announced that the league would support the legalization of sports gaming. He’s shown here speaking in Las Vegas in July.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and the NBA recently announced that the league would support the legalization of sports gaming. He’s shown here speaking in Las Vegas in July. AP photo

States struggling with their budgets may have received a new ally and a potentially lucrative revenue stream thanks to new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and his progressive thinking.

Silver and the NBA recently announced that the league would support the legalization of sports gaming — a stark contrast to the position taken by former commissioner David Stern. The NBA’s support and public endorsement could cause Congress to legalize sports gambling.

When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie attempted to legalize sports gambling in 2012, Stern admonished him. The former commissioner said “New Jersey doesn’t know what it’s doing,” and that it’s only trying to make “a buck or two.”

Immediately after New Jersey passed its law, the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB and NCAA filed a lawsuit against New Jersey for circumventing federal law. The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act prohibits states from legalizing sports gambling except those — Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon — that had sports gambling before PASPA. Despite PASPA’s clear mandate, Christie forged ahead in favor of trying to help boost his state’s economy.

Christie eventually lost his fight in U.S. District Court, and then the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed that decision. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case despite having interesting language in a dissent from a prior decision — Shelby County v. Holder — from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The Shelby County decision dealt with states being treated equally, and Ginsburg directly called into question PASPA’s continued constitutionality for allowing sports gambling in some states but not others.

New Jersey vowed to find a way to allow sports gambling, and the NBA may have given it a second chance. While New Jersey’s court fight is over, Congress still has the power to repeal or amend PASPA. Now that the NBA is effectively supporting New Jersey’s position — Silver said he understands struggling states may need to legalize gambling — one of New Jersey’s strongest opponents can become its greatest ally.

If the NBA’s position starts a domino effect and the other leagues join in, Congress may be lobbied to change PASPA and Gov. Christie’s fight might actually see a victorious ending.

As Silver has stated, fans enjoy the games more when there is a small wager involved. Why not have struggling states and the professional leagues profit from it as well? So now it is up to Congress to hopefully roll the dice.

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