On May 14, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 1992 federal law, essentially opening the door to sports gambling legalization. Americans already make an estimated $150 billion betting on pro and amateur sports each year. The difference is that now those bets won’t be illegal.
It wasn’t a new law that the Supreme Court voted in. It was the existing Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act that has prohibited states from authorizing sports gambling for the past 25+ years that the Supreme Court overturned. Many sponsors of the former bill said the bill was necessary to safeguard the integrity of sports. Those opposed to the bill said it was unconstitutional; The Supreme Court Agreed.
What the Ruling Means for the Gambling Industry
It isn’t surprising that the country’s gambling industry is excited by the ruling. They see sports gambling legalization as a means to give sports fans what they want. They are cheering for the chance to operate an open and transparent market that lets gamblers bet in the open. Instead of having to hide their gambling activities, their access could easily move to a wide range of locations and to their cell phones.
The gambling industry sees the ruling as a means to regulate gambling and protect consumers; the opposite of what those in the sports arena predict might happen.
No longer do those who want to bet on their favorite college or pro team have to turn to the black market. Now, they can use their smartphones just like already do for so many things. With so many people getting on-board with gambling, there will be more money rolling into individual states. States enabling fans to place bets from their smart phones will make it much easier for all types of sports fans to get involved.
While this is the opportunity some cities have been waiting for, sports leagues and the NCAA were more concerned than excited. They feel it will impact the integrity of the sports while also causing them a deluge of state regulations to contend with. Right now, fans of college sports see players competing for the sake of the game. They don’t have to worry that there’s money involved to get in the way of an honest and heartfelt game. Professionals in the college sports industries especially worry that sports betting legalization will make fans more suspect of players motives and methods.
The History of the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act
The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), also called the Brady Act, was introduced as a means to define sports betting. Basically, it made sports betting illegal across the nation. Some states, including Oregon, Delaware, and Montana, were exempt from the law because of the sports lotteries they conducted. Also exempt was Nevada because of the state’s licensed sports pools.
In May of 2018, the Supreme Court made the decision that the law conflicts with the Tenth Amendment. This amendment to the constitution deals with the balance of power between the federal government and the states.
PAPSA went into effect on January 1, 1993. Congress allowed states which currently operated licensed casino gaming during the previous ten-year period a one-year window during which they could pass laws permitting sports wagering. This exception was designed specifically for New Jersey, but the state never took advantage of the ten-year allotment. The final exceptions to the law were pari-mutuel horse and dog racing, and jai alai.
In spite of never passing a law to make betting legal when they had the opportunity, New Jersey has played a number of roles in support of sports gambling legalization. The act has been called the “Bradley Act” for New Jersey senator and former NBA basketball player, Bill Bradley. During 2011, New Jersey residents voted for an amendment to permit sports gambling. The following year, they enacted the Sports Wagering Act which permitted wagering at racetracks and casinos in the state.
It wasn’t until June 2017 that the Supreme Court accepted the case and heard arguments later the same year. Governor Phil Murphy replaced Chris Christie, and the case became Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association. The decision passed in May with a 7-2 majority in favor of the repeal.
What Easier Access to Gambling Means to Addicts
The struggle back-and-forth with proponents on both sides of the argument takes a number of factors into consideration. Politicians want the best financial opportunities for their districts or states. Those associated with the sports leagues and NCAA want what’s best for their players and the sports they play. Too often, they overlook the impact that sports gambling legalization will have on individuals and families.
Most of us know there is a very real addiction problem in our country right now. Although the focus is primarily on opioid use, addiction comes in a lot of forms and gambling is one of them. As any recovering addict knows, identifying your triggers and not giving into them is one of the most challenging prospects of recovering from your addiction.
Some people concerned with how the sports gambling legalization will impact gambling addicts aren’t sure what to expect. The impact on addicts will depend on how the individual states handle the betting and how betters will access it.
If you have ever gone to Las Vegas, you know what it’s like to be hit from every angle by the opportunity to gamble. Video Poker machines are present as soon as you arrive in the airport. There are even betting machines in the grocery stores. States that implement this kind of “in your face” strategy are going to cause a lot more problems for gamblers. There won’t be anywhere to go where there aren’t triggers to their addiction.
The implementation of legal gambling may help cities financially, but it only stands to hurt addicts. The urge to spend more of their money on gambling is obviously the primary concern. People who are addicted to gambling are less likely to seek treatment for their addiction. When they do, a lot of insurance companies won’t pay the cost. That means they are less likely to seek treatment and more likely to keep repeating their addictive behaviors until their money is gone.
Any person with addiction knows the impact their behavior has on their relationships. Once they give into it, gambling becomes the most important thing in the world. They start to avoid people with whom they used to spend time. It’s better to be alone than have to explain yourself.
Issues of Cross- and Co-Addiction
You might think that sports gambling legalization is only a problem for people who are already addicted to gambling. Sometimes people go from one addiction to another in a process called ‘cross-addiction’. The root cause of their addiction results in addictive behavior. This allows them to go from one addiction to the next. If someone is addicted to alcohol, they might be able to avoid drinking alcohol. Instead, they begin gambling with increased frequency until it becomes their addiction of choice.
Co-addiction means that the person has more than one addiction at the same time. They may be addicted to alcohol, gambling, and smoking. An addict also frequently has co-occurring disorders, such as an eating disorder.
When any of these conditions occur, the impact on the person’s health, finances, relationships, and every other area of their lives is even greater. It’s vital that they get treatment for both conditions and the reason for their behaviors. Whether it starts with a gambling addiction or your path of addiction leads you there, you need help to find the answers that will get you back on track.
Some experts suggest that the operations who will offer sports betting will be required to pay into treatment programs. The insurance would work much like employers pay workers compensation for their employees. Some states already have this type of legislation for their casino gambling. This and educating people on gambling addiction are essential if states want to prevent the impact of legal gambling and support responsible gambling.
How Do You Know You’re a Gambling Addict?
The ruling for sports gambling legalization is likely to lead to gambling problems with old gamblers and new ones alike. But how do you know if you’re an addict or you just enjoy placing an occasional bet? The key word here is ‘compulsive’.
Think about buying lottery tickets out of a dispensing machine. You have $10 to spend so you take out two $5 tickets. The first one loses, but the second one is worth $20. What do you do? If you pocket the $20 and go home feeling lucky, you don’t have an addiction. If you put it back in the machine and keep playing until your last dollar is gone, you might have a problem.
A gambling addict gambles compulsively without any control. Even when they know the financial and/or emotional consequences will be significant, they have to gamble. It doesn’t matter if they’re having a lucky night or a bad one. If they lose, the next hand will be better. If they win, they’re on a streak. They’re just like the Energizer Bunny, they keep going and going.
It’s also possible to have a gambling problem without going completely overboard. Even if you bet the same amount of money on the same type of bet every week, it depends on whether it’s something you can afford. Losing money you need disrupts your life. It affects you and all the other decisions you have to make. It hurts you and those you are closest to.
Even if gambling doesn’t affect your finances, it can still be a problem. Addiction usually accompanies a mood disorder such as stress, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. Your moods depend on your ability to gamble and whether you win or lose.
As you can see, gambling addiction isn’t the same for everyone. Society views gambling addiction as a ‘hidden illness’ because even those people closest to you don’t see the signs. Gambling addicts often lie to others and to themselves about losing control to their gambling. If you feel like you have to keep your gambling secret from everyone you love, it’s the first clue that you might have a gambling problem.
Another symptom of a gambling addiction is the inability to walk away. When you walk into a setting where there is gambling, do you set limits and follow them? Or do you keep betting until there’s nothing left? Gamblers with the most severe addiction may go so far as to take out loans or second mortgages on their homes to get money. They can also start stealing things if that’s the only way they think they can get the money they need to gamble.
What to Do About Sports Gambling Legalization
It’s hard to say what the sports gambling legalization will lead to in your state. If you have previously undergone treatment, you may need to talk with a professional about dealing with your triggers now and in the future. If you struggle to avoid your addiction, there is treatment that will help.
Don’t hesitate to take action if you think you have an addiction problem. Now is the time to get the help you need. Even if your state never implements sports gambling, the best time to start looking at the causes of your behaviors is at the earliest sign of a gambling addiction.
If you have a loved one who is struggling with addiction, don’t let them push you away. It’s important to understand that dealing with addiction alone is nearly impossible. Nothing is more valuable than family support while you are trying to go through recovery. Contact Get Real Recovery to learn more about our addiction programs.