New Jersey Wants To Legalize Sports Betting. The NCAA, MLB, NFL, NBA And NHL Want To Stop Them.

Illustration for article titled New Jersey Wants To Legalize Sports Betting. The NCAA, MLB, NFL, NBA And NHL Want To Stop Them.

New Jersey has announced plans to allow sports betting at Atlantic City casinos, and the major sports leagues are not pleased. The NCAA, MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL filed a lawsuit last week arguing that New Jersey's sports betting plan violates a 1992 federal law.


Saturday Down South has a good history of the leagues' opposition to gambling on sports. It all started in 1992 when the four major pro leagues, along with the NCAA, lobbied Congress to pass anti-sports betting legislation. This led to the adoption of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). The law banned "lottery, sweepstakes, or other betting, gambling, or wagering scheme" based on sports, except in the four states where sports betting was already legal (Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon). New Jersey was given one year to legalize wagering on sports. They didn't, and they weren't grandfathered in with the other four states.

When the bill was presented to Congress, NBA commissioner David Stern, then-NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, and then-MLB commisioner Fay Vincent testified to try to swing lawmakers. Tagliabue argued that betting on games would "inevitably foster a climate of suspicion about controversial plays and intensify cynicism with respect to player performances, coaching decisions, officiating calls and game results."

Stern took a bit of a different approach. His argument was essentially that everything having to do with the NBA is the property of the NBA. Stern said that the NBA "owns the rights to its games and the manner of their exploitation." The previous year, speaking in opposition to a proposed sports betting provision in Oregon, Stern suggested that if the government wanted to do away with the freedom of the press to better serve the NBA's interests, he'd be all for it. He said:

"We would actively support any legislation that would prohibit the media from carrying point spreads, if such legislation were permissible under the First Amendment."

But back to New Jersey. PAPSA is pretty clear: no betting on sports. New Jersey's plan is also clear: we want betting on sports. This obvious disconnect is the basis of the leagues' lawsuit. Of course, lawsuits, especially federal lawsuits, take forever to get sorted out, so don't expect to head down to AC and lose all your money betting on football any time soon.

Report: The long-term battle between sports leagues and gambling [Saturday Down South]