The George Washington Law Review Features Response from Jeff Ifrah and David Yellin to SCOTUS Sports Betting Case; Murphy v. NCAA
May 30, 2018
In a recent 6–3 ruling in Murphy v. NCAA, the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (“PASPA”), ending the federal ban on sports betting and opening the door for states to begin legalizing sports gambling. This ruling immediately legalizes sports betting in New Jersey, opens up a logjam that states, casinos, and foreign sportsbooks have been hoping to break for years, and will likely lead to a rush to legalize sports betting in many states that already have casino gambling.
The Court’s ruling relied on a fairly straightforward application of the anti-commandeering doctrine. Under this doctrine, first described by the Court in 1992, federal laws cannot require states to take actions implementing federal policy. As the Court explained, “[w]here a federal interest is sufficiently strong to cause Congress to legislate, it must do so directly; it may not conscript state governments as its agents.” Because PASPA acted by prohibiting states from authorizing sports betting, many scholars had come to believe it was a clear violation of this doctrine. But, because of America’s conflicted views on the morality of sports betting—and because the Court had previously declined to consider the issue—there was a surprising amount of uncertainty over how the Court would rule on this seemingly straightforward question.
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