Sports betting—legally—is about to get a lot easier after a Supreme Court decision Monday. Since 1992, a federal law has required states other than Nevada to ban gambling on sports; Nevada was grandfathered in at the time and has since had a monopoly on legal sports betting. But Americans have still illegally gambled on sporting events, with the American Gaming Association having estimated that of the $10 billion likely to be wagered on this year's NCAA men's basketball tournament, just 3% of the bets would be placed legally through Nevada. New Jersey and its then-Gov. Chris Christie mounted the Supreme Court challenge to the 1992 law, arguing that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act violates the 10th Amendment by forcing states to carry out a federal dictate. In a 6-3 ruling Monday, the high court agreed and struck down the law, NBC News reports.
Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito said "a more direct affront to state sovereignty is not easy to imagine," noting that the law put state legislatures "under the direct control of Congress" by forcing them to prohibit something. (The law doesn't ban sports betting under federal law; it just requires states to ban it.) Christie argued that organized crime profits from illegal sports betting; New Jersey wants to benefit from it instead by collecting the taxes from it. Americans are estimated to spend almost $150 billion per year on illegal sports gambling. Phil Murphy, New Jersey's current governor, said in late April his state is ready to allow certain types of sports betting at casinos and racetracks "sooner than later" should the court rule in its favor. A research firm estimated that were the Supreme Court to strike down the 1992 law, 32 states would likely allow sports betting within five years, the AP reports. (Read more sports betting stories.)