SCOTUS Ruling On Sports Gambling Is A Major Win For Liberty

Alice Salles Comments

The Supreme Court upheld states’ rights to decide whether to legalize gambling on sports. By striking down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), also known as the Bradley Act, states are now free to pass their own laws regarding the matter.

This Murphy v. NCAA decision matters because it’s good for individual choice and good for other cases that may fall under the anti-commandeering doctrine.


Murphy v. NCAA took shape after the New Jersey legislature repealed state laws banning gambling on sports in 2014. This put the state in direct defiance of PASPA.

A federal law, PASPA stated that no state could “sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license, or authorize by law or compact.” Seeing this as an abuse of its authority, the state of New Jersey fought back. New Jersey’s action was seen as a threat to sports leagues and their monopoly over game-related activities. The NCAA, Major League Baseball, the NBA, and the NFL then all came together in a coalition to sue New Jersey.

While the Supreme Court agreed with the leagues that New Jersey was, indeed, violating federal law, it also recognized that the anti-commandeering doctrine prohibits the federal government from dictating sports gambling policies. As such, it freed the states from following this regulation.

According to the Tenth Amendment Center, this case is consistent with the anti-commandeering doctrine because the U.S. Constitution does not “point out any state functionaries, or any state action to carry its provisions into effect.” Meaning that states should never be compelled to enforce federal laws, or to provide means so that federal law is enforced, as it isn’t a constitutional practice.

As New Jersey leads the way by making its own choices on gambling on sports, dozens of other states are expected to follow suit. As such, fans stand to win. As they now have the opportunity to benefit from the development of several new products that will give potential gamblers what Mises Institute’s Tho Bishop calls “better edge.”

Additionally, the Tenth Amendment adds, Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion, in this case, evokes the anti-commandeering doctrine for the first time, helping to cement it into the law. As such, this could give states yet another tool to undermine the federal government’s attempt at overreaching.

While libertarians should always be skeptical of using the Supreme Court as a means to expand liberty, this particular case helps to give states extra incentives to seek autonomy from the federal government in other matters. Hopefully, this means that more states will stand up to the federal government not just on gambling, but also on the drug war, gun rights, and even on health care, effectively decentralizing power and making Americans everywhere freer as a result.

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