Supreme Court Decision Means Nevada Sheds Pariah Status

Today the United States Supreme Court, in a 7-2 ruling, struck down a Federal law banning states from making wagering on sporting events legal. As Federal and state governments work on a framework to allow legalized sports betting, they need to look no further than Nevada.

In what is a landmark decision by the highest court in the land, today the United States Supreme Court ruled for the State of New Jersey – the plantiff in the case – that it was indeed illegal for the Federal government to impose a ban on sports betting. In the majority opinion, the Court stated states must be the final arbiters of whether or not to legalize it in their states.

As both sides look to hammer out some sort of Federal framework to correctly and effectively regulate sports betting nationwide after this Supreme Court decision, they’d be wise to look at the history of the practice in the Oakland Raiders future home state – Nevada.

When gambling was legalized in Nevada in 1931, sports betting wasn’t a big draw. In fact, during the first 20 years of legalized gaming in Nevada, illegal bookmakers still accounted for the largest percentage of sports wagering in the state. As the casinos grew their sports book operations and revenues, Congress imposed a stuff 10% tax on the Silver State’s sports books trying to curtail the practice.

By 1974, the Feds eased the tax burden down to 2-percent. That led to the first sports book to open inside a casino was the brainchild of Las Vegas gaming pioneer Jackie Gaughn. In 1975, Gaughan opened the first sports book inside a casino at the Union Plaza. The man who ran it for Gaughn was none other than legendary oddsmaker Bob Martin.

Throughout that process, the State of Nevada and its strict and tightly run Nevada Gaming Commission have regulated the industry to insure it is not abused nor used in a way that undermines the publics belief in both the sports they are wagering on, and the businesses taking their bets. In fact, in the years since the boom of legalized sports betting in Nevada, not one major sports betting fix or scam has emanated from the state. More times than now, Nevada’s sports books have helped to uncover and expose cheating, point shaving, and other illicit sports gaming scams.

This is why the sports world in the United States needs to work closely as states explore whether or not they too will legalized the practice in their own jurisdiction. Still, don’t expect sports betting to come to your state quickly. Much like marijuana legislation in states like Nevada, Colorado, and California, you can expect inconsistencies and full of rapidly evolving opinions and views.

The Supreme Court decision on sports betting today is just the very first step in it becoming a reality over the coming years.

As states do make their own decisions on the subject, and the Federal government works to provide some framework for them to work within, it would be wise to look to Nevada for guidance. The state has been regulated the practice for nearly 100 years and that means something. Because of this experience in both creating and enforcing laws in the best interest of business and the state’s residents, all states considering legalizing sports betting can feed off those 100 years of regulation. There is no doubt it has worked effectively in Nevada and leadership here (both government and business) can now leverage that to help their businesses grow outside the state, but also within.

Nevada No Longer the Pariah

When Raiders owner Mark Davis petitioned the National Football League to move to Las Vegas, many in sports and the media wondered out loud what it meant for pro football to have a team in a state where betting on it was legal. It had not been done before and some owners – often times off the record – talked of their concerns of the integrity of the game with a team in Las Vegas. The NFL owners, who never saw a buck they didn’t want a cut of, agreed overwhelmingly for Davis’ team to move to the sports betting capital of the world. At that point, astute observers could tell you the NFL was reading the tea leaves with this New Jersey case and they too realized it was only a matter of time.

Now, the Raiders and Las Vegas look to be the shining city on a hill (even though we’re actually in a valley). Not only does Nevada have 100 years of legalized sports wagering for the rest of the U.S. to learn from, it now has an NFL team two years away from being the trailblazer for the rest of the league.

supreme court sports betting

With today’s SCOTUS decision, could in-stadium wagering be a reality when the Raiders kickoff the 2020 season in Las Vegas?

If league brass and NFL owners don’t huddle often with the Raiders and Nevada officials, they will be wasting a great opportunity. Nevada has the structure that can be imitated and used as a model for the rest of the nation. The Raiders too can help innovate with in-venue gaming, casino naming rights, and other long-banned gambling practices to gain even more revenue and growth for professional football.

Much like Nevada’s gold rush in 1857 (yes, despite being called the “Silver State,” Nevada is the nation’s leading producer of gold too), legalized sports betting will be a gold rush for private business and sports leagues and associations nationwide. Progressive leagues like the NBA have already stated they want a 1-percent cut of all sports wagering on their games. The NFL remains at arms length as does the NHL and Major League Baseball.

The NCAA, long the most hypocritical sports organization on legalized betting and almost all other issues, released this surprising statement today:

“Today the United States Supreme Court issued a clear decision that PASPA is unconstitutional, reversing the lower courts that held otherwise,” NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy said. “While we are still reviewing the decision to understand the overall implications to college sports, we will adjust sports wagering and championship policies to align with the direction from the court.”

Compare that with what’s on their website today, which has been long-standing policy for the group:

“The NCAA opposes all forms of legal and illegal sports wagering, which has the potential to undermine the integrity of sports contests and jeopardizes the welfare of student-athletes and the intercollegiate athletics community.”

Now, all of these leagues will have to work together to help create a framework that works to protect the integrity of all sports and the system overall. There are so many implications from this Supreme Court decision that reach across all of sports – both professional and amateur – it’s going to take a while to sort it all out.

Still, the Federal government, and the leaders in the states where you live, would be wise to put Nevada on speed dial.

Silver and Black Today will continue to cover this issue closely as it relates to the NFL and the future Las Vegas Raiders.