John Grochowski

John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski

Since the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way in May for states to legalize sports betting, New Jersey, Delaware and Mississippi have quickest off the mark.

All already have sports books up and running, a huge change from the decades when only Nevada had legal, full-scale sports books.

How did we get to the point that states could legalize other forms of gambling but not sports betting?

The ban on legalization, overturned in response to a challenge from the state of New Jersey, had been in effect since enactment of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992.

PASPA prohibited legalization of sports betting in any state that did not already have it. Nevada, with its full-scale sports gambling, and Montana, Delaware and Oregon, with limited forms of sports wagering, were exempt from the restriction.

The major outside backers were the major professional sports leagues and the National Collegiate Athletic Association. All were worried a new proliferation of casinos would increase risk of gambling association with their sports.

Major League Baseball had its World Series fixing scandal involving the Chicago White Sox in 1919 and more recently had banned Pete Rose for betting on games when he was a player-manager in the 1980s. The National Football League had banned stars Paul Hornung and Alex Karras for the 1963 season for betting on games, and the NCAA had several point-shaving scandals in basketball.

When legal casinos began to spread outside Nevada and New Jersey, the sports leagues were nervous. Tribal casinos grew after the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, riverboat casinos opened in Iowa and Illinois in 1990 and 1991, and Louisiana and Mississippi were right behind.

A former Princeton University and New York Knicks basketball star, Bill Bradley, was a U.S. Senator from New Jersey and was highly influential as the main Senate sponsor of the bill.

One provision gave New Jersey one year past enactment to legalize sports betting at Atlantic City casinos. The year passed and New Jersey did not act.

That's an odd little coincidence, because much later, New Jersey did pass a bill legalizing sports gambling and it was New Jersey that went to court to upend the federal law.

Now that the ban is gone and opening of sports books has begun, more states are certain to follow suit. West Virginia and Rhode Island figure to be next. Both have passed legislation legalizing sports betting and regulations and systems could be in place to begin operations soon.

In early August, West Virginia legislators filed rules for public comment on implemention of sports betting, beating a deadline by just two days. Had the rules not been filed, implementation could have been delayed until spring. Instead, West Virginia hopes to have sports betting up and running near the start of the NFL season in September.

When Rhode Island legalized sports betting in June, it was said the state hoped to have it operational within three months. That would be a similar time frame to West Virginia, with betting available early in the NFL season.

Next in line appear to be Pennsylvania, which passed legislation in 2017 legalizing sports betting if federal law changed, and New York, where the state gaming commission is working on legislation that would permit sports betting at the state's four commercial casinos under a law passed in 2013.

Other states are certain to follow, although legislative approval is not always a slam-dunk. There's almost always resistance to expansion of legal gambling, and players are going to have to wait and see.

Look for John Grochowski on Facebook ( and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).

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