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May 30, 2018

For any sports fans out there, you might have heard that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal statute that prohibited sports gambling in the United States. Previously, sports betting was illegal in all states not named Nevada. With the Supreme Court’s ruling, all states are now free to implement their own sports gambling regimes. As legal scholars, we wanted to provide our readers with a better understanding of the now-stricken anti-sports gambling law and what this means for Arizona moving forward.

The Anti-Sports Gambling Law:

Prior to the MLB’s Steroid Era and the National Football League’s (NFL) more recent “Deflate Gate,” sports gambling was the major threat to the integrity of professional and amateur sports. Compelled to alleviate the fears that gambling would detract from the competitive integrity of sports, Congress enacted the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 1992 (PASPA). Since Congress passed PASPA, it has been unlawful for “a governmental entity to sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license, or authorize by law . . . a lottery, sweepstakes, or other betting, gambling, or wagering scheme” involving competitions between professional or amateur athletes. PASPA also designated a special exemption for Nevada because it was one of four states that already had an existing sports gambling structure.

For nearly 20 years, PASPA received general support with very few critics. However, in the wake of the 2008 Recession, some states contemplated legalizing sports gambling to combat budgetary concerns. For the last decade, New Jersey remained in constant opposition with PASPA, as the State challenged the constitutionality of the anti-gambling law. On May 14, 2018, New Jersey’s goals were realized when the Supreme Court declared that PASPA was unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court Ruling:

The constitutionality of PASPA turned on a 10th Amendment doctrine that even the most knowledgeable and skilled lawyers do not fully understand. The Supreme Court held that PASPA violated what is known as the “anti-commandeering doctrine.” In essence, the anti-commandeering principle prohibits the federal government from forcing States to act against their will. Because PASPA’s broad prohibition on enacting sports gambling schemes influenced States’ abilities to regulate their private citizens, it was unconstitutional under the anti-commandeering doctrine.

Is Sports Gambling Now Legal in Arizona?

No. Sports betting remains illegal in the state of Arizona pursuant to its laws. Under Arizona law, gambling is generally illegal with the exceptions of the lottery, horse racing, and gaming compacts with tribes. However, with the Supreme Court’s ruling, Arizona is now free to adopt its own sports gambling regulations. Whether or not this will occur, depends on the state Legislature. If the Legislature votes to adopt sports gambling, the state would need to renegotiates tribal compacts related to casino gaming before any law would go into effect. Governor Ducey has publicly stated that the state is working on a gaming compact, and he believes a sports gambling structure in Arizona could greatly benefit the State’s general fund.


Regardless of what Arizona ultimately chooses to do, we, at Torgenson Law, want to remind you to GAMBLE RESPONSIBLY. There is no personal injury claim against a casino for taking your money. If you believe you have a gambling problem, call Arizona’s helpline for problem gamblers at 1-800-639-8783. And as always, if you or a loved has suffered a personal injury, call Torgenson Law at (602) 726-0747.