Anyone’s Game: Sports-Betting Regulations after Murphy v. NCAA

10 Pages Posted: 29 May 2019

Date Written: March 11, 2019


Until very recently, sports betting was regulated — and banned in most states — by a federal law, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). Last year, however, the Supreme Court ruled in Murphy v. NCAA that PASPA was unconstitutional because it dictated what state law could and couldn’t be in this area. With PASPA struck down, states have the opportunity to make their own laws on sports betting for the first time in a quarter of a century. Many have now legalized the practice, while others are in the process of doing so. Congress likewise is deciding if and how to regulate sports betting directly — rather than by “commandeering” the states as PASPA did — considering input from sports leagues, gaming associations, and others. The leagues are urging federal regulation that would guarantee them a percentage of sports-betting purveyors’ profits. Gaming associations, on the other hand, argue that states are best equipped to regulate the practice themselves.

Our Constitution enshrined the principle that, with some exceptions, states are best-equipped to make their own laws instead of being forced into one-size-fits-all schemes. The Court in Murphy restored that regulatory framework, leaving sports betting to the states just like other forms of gambling. Sports betting is thus a new frontier, providing an opportunity to show how federalism can function. Congress would do well to remember our founding principles when considering new legislation and to avoid policies requiring sports-betting purveyors to pay excessive fees to the leagues, which would be an unnecessary burden on states and their citizens.

Keywords: sports betting, sports gambling, PASPA, Murphy v. NCAA, federalism

JEL Classification: L83, Z2

Suggested Citation

Moran, Patrick, Anyone’s Game: Sports-Betting Regulations after Murphy v. NCAA (March 11, 2019). Cato Institute Legal Policy Bulletin No. 4, March 2019. Available at SSRN:

Patrick Moran (Contact Author)

Cato Institute ( email )

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