The Legal Landscape of Sports Betting: Past, Present, & Future

Christiana de Borja

Sports Betting Historically

On October 28, 1992, President George W. Bush signed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) into law, effectively prohibiting sports gambling in states lacking pre-existing legislation permitting such activities.[1] Consequently, this action cemented Nevada’s exclusive status of the epicenter of legalized sports betting, a status quo that endured for decades.[2]

However, changes began to emerge in March of 2009 when the state of New Jersey initiated a federal lawsuit aimed at dismantling PASPA.[3] Their argument hinged on the contention that PASPA violated the 10th Amendment's safeguards against federal anti-commandeering laws.[4] Eventually, the matter reached the Supreme Court, in a case known as Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).[5] Throughout the proceedings, New Jersey's endeavor to legalize sports gambling faced stiff opposition, notably from the NCAA and major U.S. sports leagues.[6] Influential commissioners of these leagues, such as Bud Selig of Major League Baseball (MLB) and David Stern of the National Basketball Association (NBA), conveyed their bleak visions of the future should sports betting be legalized.[7]

Nonetheless, on May 14, 2018, the Supreme Court delivered a groundbreaking verdict, dismantling PASPA.[8] The Court ruled that PASPA was not consistent with the Constitution, thereby granting states the liberty to establish their own regulations governing sports gambling in the absence of a federally regulated framework.[9]

Where We Currently Are

Following the pivotal ruling in Murphy v. NCAA, a profound transformation has swept through the landscape of sports betting. Presently, a staggering 38 states and Washington D.C. have legalized some form of sports wagering, and the prevailing sentiment suggests that more states will follow suit.[10] The industry itself is booming. According to data from the American Gaming Association (AGA), sportsbook revenue in the United States surged to a remarkable $7.5 billion in 2022, a 75% increase over the previous year.[11] Flutter, the parent company of FanDuel, predicts that the U.S. betting market could potentially surpass $40 billion by 2030.[12]

In tandem with industry expansion, sports betting has also begun forging close ties with major U.S. sports franchises, resulting in the proliferation of betting partnerships. A notable example is the Chicago Cubs’ partnership with DraftKings, which now stands at a valuation of over $100 million annually.[13]

Furthermore, betting has provided a unique avenue for sports enthusiasts and fans alike to deepen their engagement with the games they love.[14] It is undeniable that the ability to place wagers on games has enhanced the fan experience for many, ignited greater enthusiasm, and extended the duration that these individuals devote to consuming sports-related content.[15]

Where We Are Going

However, as sports betting journeys into the mainstream, it is not without its array of concerns. Among these apprehensions is the ever-present opportunity for corruption whenever significant wagers are at play.[16] Nevertheless, the likelihood of athletes in the most prestigious leagues jeopardizing their substantial earnings and hard-earned reputations by manipulating game outcomes remains remote.[17] Instead, the true vulnerability resides with college athletes, minor league players, referees, and similar figures who may have stronger incentives to engage in corrupt activities.[18] Regardless, in all likelihood, the betting market for sports susceptible to tainted results would naturally decline, as fans would be dissuaded from placing wagers on, and even viewing, such games.[19]

A more pressing source of concern pertains to the sports gamblers themselves, given the lack of robust safeguards. Experts posit that the allure of wagering, coupled with the accessibility of mobile technology, has already led to a surge in gambling-related problems.[20] In response to these growing concerns, legislators are now taking measures to bolster oversight of the gambling industry. This scrutiny extends to various aspects, most notably focusing on advertising practices that may inadvertently target underage bettors.[21] For instance, New York has proposed stringent regulations prohibiting advertising on college campuses or any advertisements that are aimed at individuals below the legal age for gambling, set at 21 in New York.[22] Similarly, professional sports leagues and select television networks have come together to form the Coalition for Responsible Sports Betting Advertising, advocating for marketing exclusively to adults of legal betting age.[23]

Nevertheless, as Brianne Doura-Schawohl, a lobbyist representing the National Council on Problem Gambling, keenly pointed out, these discussions should have transpired well in advance of legalization, emphasizing a substantial deficit in addressing gambling issues.[24] This deficiency suggests that the ongoing discourse on how best legislate safeguards against these gambling-related problems is likely to endure far into the future. It will be interesting to observe how each state begins to navigate these emerging challenges in the coming years.


[1] Matt Bonesteel, Sports Betting Timeline: From Las Vegas to the Supreme Court, Wash. Post (Aug. 29, 2022), [] [].

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Jon Wertheim, The Big Picture, Sports Illustrated (Aug. 9, 2021), [] [].

[8] Bonesteel, supra note 1.

[9] Id.

[10] Ed Dixon, ‘We Can’t Think of Anything That’s Moved This Quickly’: What’s the State of the US Sports Betting Market in 2023?, SportsPro Media (Sept. 21, 2023),,75%20per%20cent%20on%202021. [] [,75%20per%20cent%20on%202021.].

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Wertheim, supra note 7.

[14] Id.

[15] Dixon, supra note 10.

[16] Wertheim, supra note 7.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] Id.

[21] Eric Lipton & Kevin Draper, First Came the Sports Betting Boom. Now Comes the Backlash., N.Y. Times  (May 13, 2023), [] [].

[22] Id.

[23] Id.

[24] Id.