Rise and Fall of Bradley Act

When bill S. 474 was proposed to the Senate by New Jersey Democratic Senator Bill Bradley on February 22, 1991, it was the beginning of what would become PASPA – the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992.

Also known as the Bradley Act (for the Senator and former NBA player who introduced it), it was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1992 and went into effect in January 1993, preventing states (with some exceptions for Nevada, Oregon, Delaware and Montana) from regulating and taxing sports betting.

It was the culmination of a contentious multi-year battle between the State of New Jersey and professional sports leagues regarding the potential impact that regulated sports betting would have on professional sports.

One of the leading voices in getting PASPA into legislature was NBA Commissioner David Stern, who testified that “the interstate ramifications of sports betting are a compelling reason for federal legislation.”

How did lobbyists work against PASPA?

Despite PASPA being written into law, that didn’t deter lobbyists from continuing to work in favour of legalized sports betting. Groups such as the American Sports Betting Coalition were formed to educate and continue to push for regulated sports betting, while states such as New Jersey continually worked to overcome PASPA.

New Jersey voters approved a ballot referendum in 2011 to allow casinos and horse racetracks in Atlantic City to operate sportsbooks. The state formally passed a law allowing for such actions in 2012.

New Jersey’s argument was that PASPA violated the Tenth Amendment of the constitution. It reserves all states the rights which aren’t explicitly granted to the federal government, including gambling regulation. But because it grandfathered in pre-existing sports-based gaming lotteries in Oregon, Delaware and Montana, as well as regulated sports betting in Nevada, it effectively prohibited the rest of the country from doing so. Thereby, it was unconstitutional.

After a number of back-and-forth appeals between New Jersey and the NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL and NCAA, the case was finally brought before the Supreme Court of the United States in the ground breaking Phil Murphy (Governor of New Jersey) v. National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The Supreme Court reviewed the constitutionality of the Act and voted in a 7-2 decision in May 2018 that parts of PASPA were indeed unconstitutional, and then in a 6-3 decision deemed it wholly unconstitutional. Justice Samuel Alito remarked that “Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each state is free to act on its own. Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PASPA is not.”

Read the full ruling.

In light of that decision, PASPA was fully repealed, leaving each state free to enact their own legislation to regulate sports betting. It did not take very long for states to act, as Delaware and New Jersey kicked things off as seven states established some form of regulated sports betting within the 2018 calendar year. The rest of the country has continued to develop and welcome regulated sports betting as well, and as of today there are:

16 states with fully-legalized sports betting.

Five (5) states that have recently passed a sports betting bill but have not yet written them into legislation.

27 states that have introduced a sports betting bill, but it has yet to be passed yet.

  • Only three (3) states with no sort of sports betting bill even introduced.