The odds seem to favor state lawmakers wanting to capitalize on sports betting following a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.
Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for states to legalize sports betting, striking down a 1992 federal law. The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act had prohibited states from authorizing or legalizing sports betting unless it was already law prior to the act’s passage.
“As a result, legalized sports gambling will likely soon be available in a number of new markets across the country,” said Nathaniel Grow, associate professor of business law and ethics at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business.
However, that doesn’t mean Hoosiers immediately will be able to win anything more than bragging rights when their teams succeed.
Grow said just because states are allowed to enact laws regulating sports betting doesn’t mean they will.
In Indiana, some legislators are open to adding sports wagering as one of the topics to be studied in summer committees this year alongside other topics such as medical marijuana and bias crimes.
State Sen. Mark Stoops, D-Bloomington, said any form of gambling gets a lot of discussion in the General Assembly, as some lawmakers oppose any expansion of gambling, and others would favor it.
Stoops said if a summer study committee decides to move forward on sports gambling, lawmakers would have to come up with ways to regulate and tax it, while also finding ways to mitigate any negative consequences.
State Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, said state legislatures have been watching this Supreme Court case and positioning themselves for some time.
One such state was West Virginia, which enacted legislation regulating the activity prior to the Supreme Court decision.
Similar sports wagering language was introduced in the 2018 Indiana legislative session. State Rep. Alan Morrison, R-Terre Haute, authored unsuccessful legislation that sought to authorize sports betting at riverboats, racetrack casinos and satellite betting facilities if the federal prohibition was lifted.
State Rep. Jeff Ellington, R-Bloomington, said he will wait and see what recommendations come out of the study committee. In addition, he said he is interested in learning more about how constituents in his district feel about the idea.
Grow said the biggest incentive for states to consider legalizing sports gambling is the tax revenue it would generate from what is already seen as a common practice.
Pierce agreed, saying: “I think it is just all about the money.”
While tax revenue would be a plus for the state, Pierce said minuses also need to be considered, such as the impact legalizing sports betting could have on problem gambling and law enforcement.
Grow said state lawmakers have flexibility in drafting policy. Sports betting could be limited to just the casinos, for example, or it could be allowed only on professional sports and not amateur or collegiate sports. Fees could be assessed at a range of levels.
Historically, Grow said, professional sports leagues have opposed sports betting. He said leagues worry about gambling’s impact on the game’s integrity.
Grow said leagues push for an “integrity fee” added to all sports bets, which can be used to offset the cost of resources to combat corruption.
He said the four major U.S. sports leagues will likely seek a national law rather than rely on individual state laws to regulate sports gambling.
At the collegiate level, the NCAA announced Thursday that it would support federal sports betting regulations to ensure integrity in athletics.
“Sports wagering can adversely impact student-athletes and undermine the games they play,” Mark Emmert, NCAA president, said in a statement. “We are committed to ensuring that laws and regulations promote a safe and fair environment for the nearly half a million students who play college athletics.”
Grow said how the sports gambling industry will be regulated is “the big question moving forward.”