The Real March Madness

Is the federal law banning sports betting?

This law, passed in the 1990s, forbids state governments from legalizing betting on professional sports. Like all such laws, this bill does not stop people from betting on professional sports. Instead it guarantees that betting will be controlled by criminal elements.

These bans are also unconstitutional.

Sadly, too many in Washington are working to give the government new powers to violate the Constitution, invade our privacy, and restrict our liberty in a futile attempt to outlaw online gaming.

Campaign for Liberty is working oppose these efforts.

Michelle Minton of the Competitive Enterprise Institute has more information on the federal ban on sports betting:

This month, millions of Americans will participate in March Madness—friendly betting pools on the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) Men’s Basketball Championship. People from diverse backgrounds and political ideologies will collectively fill out an estimated 70 million brackets. What they share in common is not only a fun pastime, but violating a federal law.

A little known statute, enacted by Congress in the early 1990s, bans states from sanctioning sports betting in any way. Clearly, this has not stopped Americans, from the office janitor to a sitting U.S. President, from spending billions of dollars on illegal sports gambling each year. What it has done is prevent states like New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware from regulating the activity, enacting consumer protections, and collecting the potential millions of dollars in tax revenue from licensed bookmakers. Worst of all, the law criminalizes the activity of otherwise law-abiding citizens. Rather than propping up this outdated prohibition, it is time for the law to treat adults like adults and recognize that spending our own money on gambling, whether buying a lottery ticket, playing poker online, or betting on a sporting event, is a legitimate means of recreation and a matter of personal choice.

Gambling regulation in the U.S. has been a matter traditionally left to the states. However, by the 1990s, as more than a dozen states considered proposals to legalize sports betting, some in Congress feared the spread of legal sports gambling would promote match-fixing and erode public trust in the games. The upshot was that Congress enacted the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 1992, the statute that barred all states but Nevada from legalizing the activity. Congress justified this unprecedented intrusion into state matters by asserting the harms caused by legal sports betting are felt beyond states’ borders. What they failed to consider was the negative effects of creating an illegal sports gambling market.

As with all forms of prohibition, PASPA did not stop the activity it sought to ban—sports gambling. In 1991, journalist Andrew Beyer of the Washington Post wrote that “not since Prohibition have Americans so readily engaged in an illegal activity as they do with sports betting today.” That was back when the illegal betting market was estimated at a mere $40 billion per year. Today, experts estimate we spend between $140 billion and $400 billion on the activity. Furthermore, despite its name, PASPA created a scenario where match-fixing is more likely to occur and less likely to be spotted.

Read the rest of the piece here.



Print Friendly Version of this pagePrint Get a PDF version of this webpagePDF