The attempt to prohibit sports betting
In 1992, Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), effectively outlawing sports betting in most of the U.S. Four states that previously allowed sports betting were grandfathered into the law: Nevada, Delaware, Montana, and Oregon. Today, however, Nevada is the only state in which traditional, full-fledged betting on college and professional sports through licensed bookmakers is legal.
Sports betting today: wildly popular…and growing
Despite PASPA’s attempt to largely prohibit sports betting in the U.S., Americans have embraced it and continue to place bets on their favorite sports and teams. But instead of taking place in a regulated environment backed by consumer protections, the vast majority of sports betting today takes place underground. $90 billion will be wagered on NFL and college football games this season – $88 billion of it through illegal channels.
Changing public attitudes
When PASPA was enacted nearly 25 years ago, supporters expressed serious doubts about whether sports betting and the integrity of games could co-exist. But today, nearly six in ten Americans favor ending the federal sports betting ban to allow states to decide whether to offer sports betting and 72 percent of avid sports fans want to end the federal ban.
Professional sports leagues softening stance
Once staunchly opposed to sports betting, professional sports leaders have recently softened their positions on sports betting.
NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell:
"All of us have evolved a little on gambling."
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in a November 2015 New York Times op-ed:
“…[T]he laws on sports betting should be changed. Congress should adopt a federal framework that allows states to authorize betting on professional sports, subject to strict regulatory requirements and technological safeguards…sports betting should be brought out of the underground and into the sunlight where it can be appropriately monitored and regulated.”
Former NBA Commissioner David Stern, publicly announced in 2015 that he was in support of legalized sports betting:
“There should be federal legislation that says, ‘Let’s go all the way’ and have betting on sports. It’s OK. It’s going to be properly regulated. …I think that gives a way for states to make more money, for leagues to be compensated for their intellectual property, and for the federal government to take [away] illegally bet money and put it through the federal coffers.”
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred in April 2017:
"Sports gambling has changed a lot. The old vision of betting illegally with a bookie somewhere is not today's world. And, we've begun a conversation, educating people about what's out there, what sports leagues in other countries have done, in an effort to make sure that Major League Baseball's ready to join in what I think is going to be a dialogue about how sports gambling regulation in the United States should be changed.”
Commissioner Manfred on Legal, Regulated Sports Betting
and Game Integrity in March 2017:
"The fact of the matter is, those rules are actually easier to enforce if it’s all aboveboard, regulated federally and everybody knows what’s going on. It can actually improve the integrity issue.”
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in June 2015:
“I don’t worry about the integrity of the game … Our players are professionals. Their integrity, their values are right on, so that’s not the issue from our standpoint ….”