The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday paved the way for states to legalize sports gambling, striking down a 1992 federal law that barred it in most places and setting off a rush by businesses and states to cash in on an expected multibillion-dollar jackpot.
The justices endorsed New Jersey’s bid to allow such wagering in a ruling that ushers in a new era for the leading U.S. sports leagues, which had sued to block the state’s sports gambling law and called such betting a threat to the integrity of competition, fearing game-fixing and other types of cheating.
In a ruling that sent shares in gaming companies and casinos soaring, the court voided the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act and upheld the legality of a 2014 state law permitting sports betting at New Jersey casinos and horse racetracks.
Some states see sports betting, like lotteries, as a potentially lucrative source of tax revenue. The American Gaming Association estimates there is currently a $150 billion-a-year illegal sports-betting market.
The ruling takes the United States a step closer to legal sports betting in numerous states, perhaps nationwide, rather than just in select places such as Nevada, home to the gambling capital Las Vegas. The 1992 law had effectively prohibited sports gambling in all states except Nevada and, to a limited extent, Delaware, Montana and Oregon.
“New Jersey has long been the lead advocate in fighting this inherently unequal law, and today’s ruling will finally allow for authorized facilities in New Jersey to take the same bets that are legal in other states in our country,” New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, said in a statement.
The ruling adds to a decades-long trend of decreased restrictions on various types of gambling in the United States.