By TOM LATEK, Kentucky Today
FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – The Supreme Court on Monday gave the green light for states to allow gambling on sports across the nation, striking down a federal law that banned betting on football, basketball, baseball and other sports in most states.
The justices voted 6-3 to strike down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a 1992 law that forbade state-authorized sports gambling with some exceptions. It made Nevada the only state where a person could wager on the results of a single game.
Many states have hoped their cut of legalized sports gambling could help solve budget problems. But sports gambling brings its own set of troubles, said Dr. Paul Chitwood, executive director and treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
“Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has referenced the role of Congress to regulate sports gambling and I hope Congress acts quickly. Gambling, legally or illegally, has benefited none of Kentucky’s families or children but has delivered huge payouts in pain,” he said. “What family or community is stronger or healthier because of gambling? Are there more vexing issues we have to face than sports betting? Of course. But if you’re asking me had I rather be bitten by a Black Widow or a Brown Recluse, my answer is neither.”
Frankfort attorney Tom Troth, a legislative agent for the Kentucky Baptist Convention, offered his thoughts on the decision.
“The ruling of the Supreme Court is troubling generally because of the devastating financial hardship and lack of opportunities for families that gambling creates,” he said. “Gambling is predatory, and those who gamble will inevitably lose the hard-earned funds that they can ill afford to wager on sports teams or any other form of gambling activity. According to information provided by Stop Predatory Gambling, ‘the American people lost $117 billion on state-sanctioned gambling in 2016, causing life-changing financial losses for millions of citizens.’ The problem of predatory gambling will be made far worse if sports gambling parlors are allowed to operate in the commonwealth of Kentucky.”
However, Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, called it a good opinion that “allows states to determine their own policies.”
“We should expand gaming and allow sports betting to come to Kentucky,” he said. “We already have pari-mutuel wagering on horses, and I think this is the next step and it’s appropriate to do that.”
Nemes said Kentucky can learn from other’s mistakes in how to regulate it. “There are things that we are going to need to do to make sure we don’t have a Wild West in gaming,” he said. Nemes said he will craft legislation for the 2019 General Assembly.
Jim Carroll, the president of Kentucky Government Retirees, said it “provides badly needed funding for public pensions” and urged lawmakers to pass a bill that earmarks sports wagering for pensions.
Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, said his Senate Bill 22, introduced this year, provided a mechanism to regulate sports gambling through the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, but was not even taken up in committee. “How many millions of dollars will we miss out on, because we didn’t pass this bill to take advantage of the situation?” The legislation would only have taken effect if the Supreme Court ruled as it did. “I expected the ruling and told everyone it was coming.”
The American Gaming Association estimates that Americans illegally wager about $150 billion on sports each year, and one research firm estimated before the ruling that if the Supreme Court were to strike down the law, 32 states would likely offer sports betting within five years.
Alito wrote for the court, “The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make. Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each state is free to act on its own. Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PASPA is not.”