By David G. Savage
Tribune Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has cleared the way for an explosion in legalized sports betting across the nation.
The justices, by a 5-4 vote, Monday struck down a key part of a federal law that has prevented New Jersey and other states from offering legal wagering on sports at their race tracks and casinos.
The ruling has the potential to transform how Americans bet on sports. Gaming industry experts estimate Americans spend $150 billion a year betting on sports events. All but about 3 percent of this is spent through illegal operators.
Currently only Nevada offers legalized betting on sports, but New Jersey officials insisted the federal government could not force them to enforce a congressional ban on wagering on professional and college sports. When Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 1992, it did not say federal agents would police sports betting. Instead, it said states may not “sponsor” or “authorize” such gaming.
The NCAA and the major pro leagues — the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball — went to federal court and won several rulings declaring that New Jersey would violate the law if it permitted sports gaming at its tracks and casinos.
But the Supreme Court agreed with New Jersey that the Constitution’s 10th Amendment shields states from being required to enforce a federal law.
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