Gambling on Sports Coming To Massachusetts?

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Legal sports betting could be coming to Massachusetts, now that the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a federal law banning states from allowing it.

The federal Supreme Court issued a ruling Monday morning overturning the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 on a 7-2 vote, upholding the state of New Jersey’s desire to allow sports betting.

The Massachusetts Legislature hasn’t legalized sports betting as New Jersey’s legislature has. But a report issued February 28 by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission anticipated the Supreme Court’s ruling and describes how Massachusetts lawmakers might go about allowing legal gambling on sports.

If the Legislature approves it, sports betting could conceivably take place at the three establishments with casino licenses (in Plainville, Everett, and Springfield) – but also at racetracks and even at stores that sell lottery tickets, according to the white paper.

“The question of who will be allowed to provide sports betting is in some sense a function of whether it is seen as an activity suitable for new (and perhaps market-disruptive) entrants, or an extension of an existing regulated market,” the Gaming Commission’s report states. “The Legislature will need to consider how broadly it wants to extend the opportunity to offer sports betting amongst a field of potential providers that ranges from established interests to as-yet-unknown entrants.”

The report notes that though while interest may be intense in the beginning, the market is likely to find saturation sometime afterward. So competition may be fierce.

“Any stakeholder vying to provide sports betting will, however, have an interest in limiting the number of entrants in the market, as demand for sports betting is strong, but not unlimited,” the report states. “Additionally, stakeholders will likely perceive first-mover advantages in a marketplace that could get crowded as other northeast states consider legalization, as well.”

The case, known as Murphy v. NCAA, pitted New Jersey’s wish to allow sports betting and collect tax revenue from it against the wish of sports leagues to protect themselves from unsavory aspects of gambling, including the potential for corrupt outcomes of games.

A majority of justices of the federal Supreme Court found that the federal statute overstepped Congress’s authority over states by violating the sovereignty that states have under the U.S. Constitution.

“The legislative powers granted to Congress are sizable, but they are not unlimited,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority. “The Constitution confers on Congress not plenary legislative power but only certain enumerated powers. Therefore, all other legislative power is reserved for the States, as the Tenth Amendment con­ firms. And conspicuously absent from the list of powers given to Congress is the power to issue direct orders to the governments of the States.”

Alito was joined in the majority by fellow conservatives Clarence Thomas, John Roberts (the chief justice), and Neil Gorsuch, as well as by swing-vote justice Anthony Kennedy and liberals Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer. (Thomas wrote his own concurring opinion; Breyer concurred in part with the majority and dissented in part.)

Liberals Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomoyor dissented. (Breyer joined their dissent in part.)