The United States Supreme Court’s decision on Monday to open the door to legal sports betting was the first step in a process that experts expect to unfold over several years and one that is full of uncertainty.
The 6-3 vote in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which had in effect banned betting on single-game sports events in every state other than Nevada.
Now, any state is free to make its own laws, and many intend to do just that.
New York is among them, with the legislature working on a bill to legalize sports betting throughout the state.
Oneida Nation already has announced it plans to implement sports betting on its central New York lands. While some tribes believe their agreements with states already gives them the right to control sports betting, others will have to work out details that could vary state to state.
But first in line is New Jersey, which has spent six years and about $8 million battling and, until Monday, losing court cases against college and professional leagues.
There is a sports bookmaking operation ready to go at Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport, New Jersey, and the goal is to have it operational sometime in early June.
William Hill US, the American arm of a British bookmaking company, made a bet on partnering with the Monmouth Park location in 2013, and now is ready to cash in.
“I think Monmouth Park has earned the right to be the first in the market and the first to go live,” Joe Asher, CEO of William Hill US, said on Wednesday. “We’re going to do everything we can to make that happen.”
New Jersey also intends to allow sports betting at Atlantic City casinos, much like the ones that long have been a part of Las Vegas’ casino scene.
For now, only in-person gambling will be allowed, so anyone on Long Island wishing to wager would have to make a trip to the Jersey Shore.
Over time, though, states in the region such as New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Delaware likely will have their own laws and infrastructures in place. There are far more questions about all of that than answers at this early stage.
Asher said that in the excitement over the Supreme Court’s ruling, people may be understating the competition that illegal bookmaking operations will continue to provide. Unlike legal books, illegal ones provide credit, and can bypass taxes and regulation.
“The idea that all these illegal bookies are going to throw in the towel and go back to school and do something else for a living, that’s not happening,” Asher said.
Laila Mintas, deputy president of Sportradar US, works with sports leagues throughout the world in providing data that helps monitor the integrity of the betting environment.Sportradar already has relationships with American leagues that presumably will help as they learn to deal with a changed world. Mintas said one component that will be essential to compete with offshore gambling websites will be the ability to make bets using mobile devices.
“You have to provide people with the possibility to bet online,” she said, “or people will continue betting offshore.”
The particulars of each state’s regulations and tax rates will be crucial, Asher said, “in helping the industry move from the black market into the legal market. But clearly it’s going to be a positive for the sports fans, for the sports leagues in particular, and hopefully we can earn a few bucks along the way.”
Even leagues sympathetic to betting, such as the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball, are on record preferring a federal framework rather than a state-by-state hodgepodge.
That seems improbable at this stage. More likely is a patchwork somewhat akin to the legalization of marijuana.
Jennifer O’Sullivan, a partner at the Washington, D.C.,law firm Arent Fox, which specializes in representing leagues and teams, said, “We could be looking at two dozen states close to introducing or passing bills allowing sports betting very soon as a result of this ruling.”
The U.S. is a long way from places such as England, where soccer teams take the field with betting companies’ names splashed on their shirts and one can wager on a game from inside the stadium itself. But we are now headed in that general direction.