In a decision that could rob the American Mafia of one of its few remaining sources of income – and potentially save the ailing Atlantic City – the Supreme Court on Monday struck down a federal ban on sportsbetting, saying states should be free to decide whether to legalize the business. The decision, according to the Washington Post “is sure to set off a scramble among the states to find a way into a billion-dollar business.” It could also negatively impact revenues in Las Vegas because, until Monday, betting on live sporting events was only legal in Nevada – though a few other states have sports lotteries.
For example, the state of New Jersey, famously the setting of the landmark television series “the Sopranos,” could use the ruling to help revitalize its ailing Atlantic City casinos by legalizing sportsbetting at the facilities. Indeed, the bankrupt city that was once the only alternative to Las Vegas on the east coast could reap a badly needed windfall from the decision (which is great news for anybody who threw caution to the wind and bought the city’s debt).
WaPo estimates that the underground sportsbetting economy – an underworld that is dominated by various criminal groups – could be worth as much as $150 billion a year (give or take a few kneecaps). Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie spearheaded efforts to legalize sportsbetting.
Back in 2011, New Jersey voters – already crushed by some of the highest taxes in the nation – approved a proposal to allow sports betting. Christie signed a law authorizing it and dared the federal government to “try and stop us.”
Tony Soprano couldn’t have said it better himself.
Of course, Christie’s tough talk was ultimately ineffective. A court struck down the law because it violated the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (the same law that was rendered effectively toothless by Monday’s decision) and, later, a lower court closed a loophole that would’ve allowed Jersey to drop criminal penalties for the practice.
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