Murphy’s Effect on Sports Gambling in Virginia

On May 14, 2018 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) that has prohibited any state (except Nevada, Montana, Oregon, and Delaware who already allowed sports gambling in some manner) from allowing state-authorized sports gambling in Murphy v. NCAA, 584 U. S. 1 (2018).
PASPA has been in place since 1992 and has long held the support of all four major U.S. professional sports leagues as well as the NCAA and the federal government. Some have argued that the states allowing gambling would hurt the integrity of their games, as per the 1919 “Black Sox” incident in which eight players were accused of throwing the World Series in exchange for compensation from a gambling syndicate led by Arnold Rothstein (;

However, the Court ruled this week that dictating what laws that the states can or cannot pass, on an issue that Congress itself has been silent on, is not constitutional according to the anticommandeering doctrine of our federal system of government that is exemplified in the Tenth Amendment. Justice Alito stated in his opinion, “conspicuously absent from the list of powers given to Congress is the power to issue direct orders to the governments of the States.” Murphy v. NCAA, 584 U. S., at 15 (2018). This springs from the landmark case where Justice O’Connor held that the Constitution “confers upon Congress the power to regulate individuals, not States.” New York v. United States, 505 U. S. 144, 166 (1992). Since PASPA only prohibited states from authorizing sports gambling and did not prohibit individual people from gambling on sports directly, the Court held that this law was unconstitutional and overturned PASPA in a 6-3 decision accordingly.

This ruling does not expressly allow sports betting in all states, but it does allow states to enact their own statutes regarding sports betting and they can decide if they wish to prohibit or authorize sports gambling within their borders. Until such time as Congress acts to regulate gambling at the federal level, the states will now have full reign to either restrict or legalize sports gambling within their borders. This is reflected in the closing statement of the opinion in this case where Justice Alito concludes with “The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make. 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. PASPA “regulate[s] state governments’ regulation” of their citizens, New York, 505 U. S., at 166. The Constitution gives Congress no such power.” Murphy, 584 U. S., at 31.

The Commonwealth of Virginia currently prohibits non-fantasy sports betting within its borders, but this new ruling could spur activity in the General Assembly to repeal the current laws since Congress can no longer dictate what laws the states can or cannot pass.

If you have questions regarding your rights with fantasy sports betting or non-fantasy sports betting after the Murphy ruling, call the experienced attorneys at Winslow and McCurry at (804) 423.1382.