Will Supreme Court decision open door to the future?
October 24, 2017 3:00 AM
by Phil Hevener
Nevada-based companies will have big decisions to make if the door is opened to sports betting in other states as the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether Congress trampled a states’ rights approach to government when it created the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 1992.
The High Court has agreed to take a look at this issue in December when it hears pro and con arguments about New Jersey’s efforts to install sportsbooks at casinos in Atlantic City where the list of gambling halls has dwindled to seven. There were about a dozen in 2011 after state lawmakers responded to Gov. Chris Christie’s vocal support of the sports issue and decided another attraction was necessary.
Considering all the professional teams within an hour or two of Atlantic City and the illegal bookies eager to service them, it was an easy decision to make.
Anyway, legal bookmaking seemed as natural as a hamburger with fries. But not to the several federal judges who have looked at PASPA and the state’s hopes from several directions and said the two did not mesh.
Fantasy has done much to generate the conversation that keeps the issue alive. More than a dozen states have approved the legislation that will enable them to move quickly. I do not imagine there are many lawmakers in any state who will overlook the chance to sweep millions in additional revenue into their state coffers. But times change. Yes, they do.
Changing times have a lot to do with good arguments for declaring PASPA a mistake since New Jersey filed its first legal argument for sports wagering. Professional teams from ice hockey to the NFL have become more visible than ever on the American landscape. The NFL has scheduled games in London and Mexico City, both of which have legal wagering. And last week MGM International announced its acquisition of a women’s professional basketball team that will move to Vegas.
Oh yes, and did I forget to mention that both the NHL and NFL have approved Vegas as home for teams whose owners were delighted with the profitable opportunities they saw here. The move by the Golden Knights and Oakland Raiders won easy approval from club owners.
But nothing should be assumed when the justices start picking an issue apart. The fact that they live and work in areas with only limited exposure to commercial gaming is a guarantee they will not view gaming related issues with the same perspective as a Nevadan. Gaming long ago became part of the business and social tapestry that defines Las Vegas.
Gaming’s steady expansion in the northeast may have had an effect on this thinking but attitudes evolve over time. There is now a major MGM property in Maryland, a half-dozen miles as the crow flies from the Capitol, and Wynn Resorts will open a nearly $2 billion hotel and casino in the Boston area. Both properties represent the kind of spending that has potential to convince a lot of people these major resorts are a lot more than slots and craps tables.
Yes, the process of change in a competitive business has created jobs and generated tax revenue. The Supreme Court’s decision in the New Jersey case will open the door to the future.
This brings us to the decisions that will face Nevada companies should they suddenly have the opportunity to expand into any of the states that will be able to approve sports betting should the Supreme Court take action that makes this possible.
The Golden Nugget, Boyd, Caesars and Wynn by themselves could turn sports betting into a nearly nationwide legal and taxed industry overnight. This says nothing about the plans of ambitious European companies that opened Nevada offices and operations when they spotted the expansion possibilities in the U.S.