New York's Senate Finance Committee Senator John Bonacic's sports betting legislation advances

ALBANY, NY —  The Senate Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee on March 13 approved and advanced to the Senate Finance Committee Senator John Bonacic's legislation that would legalize sports betting in New York State. Specifically, it would allow the four non-Indian casinos in upstate New York to conduct sports betting, and would allow the casinos to participate in online sports betting.

Bonacic said, “If allowed, sports betting will be a revenue enhancer for education in New York. We have the chance to ensure our sports betting statute is fully developed and addresses the needs of the state and all stakeholders so we can hit the ground running if and when we can authorize and regulate sports betting.”

His legislation, like legislation being considered in a number of other states, would be possible only if the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decides in favor of a state’s right to authorize sports betting despite the existence of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (“PASPA”), which was passed in 1992 and prohibits most states from participating in sports betting; Las Vegas and four other states have limited forms of sports betting.

In 2011, New Jersey voters voted in favor of a state constitutional amendment that would permit sports gambling. In 2012, the state legislature passed legislation allowing sports betting at casinos and race tracks.

The state was the sued in a case that is known Christie v. National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

The New Jersey lawyers argued that PASPA violated New Jersey’s rights because that federal law violated the Tenth Amendment, which says “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Lower courts have sided with the NCAA and ruled that PASPA does not violate the 10th Amendment. New Jersey appealed and SCOTUS accepted the case. After oral arguments in December, Amy Howe posted on SCOTUS Blog (tinyurl.com/y78cqwrn), “After an hour of spirited debate today [December 4, 2017], a majority of the justices seemed inclined to agree with New Jersey. The court’s ruling could have implications not only for sports betting, but also for everything from state laws decriminalizing marijuana to physician-assisted suicide and self-driving cars.”

SCOTUS has not yet ruled on the case, but a ruling is expected in the next couple of weeks. According to a press release from Bonacic’s office, “In preparation of the possible overturning of PASPA the New York State Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering [chaired by Bonacic], held a hearing in January on the topic of sports betting, which has led to the introduction of this legislation to address a number of outstanding issues that are not addressed by the current statute.”

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