All Bets Are Off Following Murphy v. NCAA

By: Hunter C. Sickels (Summer Associate)

The idea of sports betting, both professional and amateur sports, has been the center of debate for many years. Until recently, Nevada has been the only state to allow such forms of gambling, however, the Supreme Court’s decision in Murphy v. NCAA will lead to a drastic change across the country.

In 1919, professional baseball experienced the “Black Sox Scandal.” In this, a group of eight members of the Chicago White Sox were found to have accepted money from gamblers to throw the World Series, despite a jury returning a “not guilty” verdict. After this verdict, the commissioner of the Major League Baseball banned these players from the MLB for life, stating, “Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player that throws a ball game; no player that undertakes or promises to throw a ball game; no player that sits in a conference with a bunch of crooked players and gamblers where the ways and means of throwing ball games are planned and discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball.” This set the stage for sports betting – a general discomfort to accept the view that money was more important than the love of the game.

Fast forward to 1992 and the charge lead by All-American collegiate basketball player, retired professional basketball player, and then-Senator Bill Bradley. Senator Bradley sponsored the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 because he saw the negative implications that sports betting imposes upon the enjoyment of the game. In his introduction to Senate Bill 474, Senator Bradley describes State-Sanctioned sports betting as the “imprimatur of the state on this activity. It conveys the message that sports are more about money than personal achievement and sportsmanship.”

For 99 years, sports betting had a negative connotation following the Black Sox Scandal. For 26 years, sports betting was unlawful under PASPA. Then, May 14, 2018, Murphy v. NCAA threw concerns for negative implications out of the window faster than someone can say, “I’ll put $10,000 on Clemson winning the College Football National Championship.” In Murphy, the Supreme Court held PASPA was an unconstitutional regulation by Congress over the State governments’ regulation of their citizens.

How does this affect us and the Quad-Cities area? As of June 28, 2019, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law Illinois S.B. 690, expanding gambling regulations to cover sports gambling in an attempt to increase revenue throughout the state. This law will allow sports wagering by authorized organizations under the Illinois Horse Racing Act of 1975, licensees under the Illinois Gambling Act, at or within a 5-block radius of a sports facility, authorizes the Board to create 3 online sports operator licenses, and creates a lottery for sports wagering.

Will you be able to bet on the Bears season opener? Will you be able to bet on the Cubs or White Sox winning the World Series? These both appear unlikely because Governor Pritzker must first select a chairperson and fifth member to the Gaming Board followed by approval from the Illinois Senate. The approval process will likely take time because the Senate is in session from January through May every year, and reconvenes for six days in October and November for “Veto Sessions.” The board will begin to promulgate the rules under the new sports wagering law after the new members are approved. It therefore seems unlikely sports betting will be fully operational by the World Series, October 22 through October 30, because the new members likely will not be approved until October 28-30, or November 12-14, at the earliest, only if the Senate is able to approve new board members during a Veto Session.

Similarly, on May 13, 2019, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed SF 617 into law, believing it will “bring this practice [of sports betting] out an unregulated black market. This law will regulate, tax, and police sports betting in a safe and responsible way.” Sports betting will be regulated by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission and such rules and regulations must still be created. The Commission is working toward completing these rules prior to the start of college and professional football. It is likely the Commission will create a license to allow companies to offer sports gambling to consumers, but until then, there are no means for Iowans to start gambling just yet.

Sports betting will open the door to many new ways to get involved in the sports you love to watch, or to become a fan of a sport you have yet to watch. Only time will tell whether Iowa, Illinois, and many other states will increase revenue based on the regulation of sports betting, whether sports will be negatively impacted by the increasing concern for money and the decreasing concern for sportsmanship, as Bill Bradley feared, and whether the increase in revenue will outweigh the negative implications to support this transition.

Hunter is a Quad Cities native who earned his Bachelor’s Degree from Iowa State University and currently attends the University of Nebraska College of Law. He is in progress of receiving his Juris Doctorate and Masters of Business Administration. He is involved with Law College and is LexisNexis Legal Research Certified &  Professional Research Certified. He is also the Vice President of the Nebraska Sports, Entertainment, and Business Law group (S.E.B.). Prior to law school, he was a student athlete for the Iowa State University Football team. He was also a student mentor and a Relay for Life volunteer. Hunter has 5 siblings and enjoys travelling, movies and watching/playing sports.


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