In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) and officially gave states the option to allow sports betting. PASPA, which made it unlawful for states to authorize gambling on sporting events, was found to violate the anticommandeering doctrine. This principle, the Court explained, “is simply the expression of a fundamental structural decision incorporated into the Constitution, i.e., the decision to withhold from Congress the power to issue orders directly to the States.” Through the federal Constitution, states have been limited from exerting their full sovereign power in certain instances; however, as the decision in Murphy illustrates, congressional authority is not unlimited and must be found in the enumerated powers expressed in the Constitution.
In striking down PASPA, the country’s highest court initiated the first change required for sports betting to become more widely legalized (Nevada was grandfathered into PASPA to allow sports betting to continue in casinos). Currently, over 30 states allow sports betting, and many have authorized online bets through apps like DraftKings and FanDuel. The legal landscape of sports betting continues to shift as states determine whether to permit betting within their borders.
Examining Florida’s choices to authorize and prohibit various gaming acts illuminates the complexities of sports betting. After the Murphy decision, the Seminole Tribe in Florida allowed online sports betting for 34 days before abandoning the newfound revenue stream due to legal challenges. The Tribe operates casinos across the state of Florida and has long been involved in legal battles involving the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) and the 2021 Gaming Compact signed by Governor Ron DeSantis. But in a recent development at the end of October 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block the 2021 Gaming Compact, seemingly opening the door to on-site sports betting. The Tribe has announced that on-site betting and new games will be available in December of this year at each of the Broward County Seminole Casinos.The news has been met with some disappointment as Floridians will remain unable to place bets from their phones. However, as evidenced by the continual changes in betting laws, the time may come when wagers will not need to be placed at a casino.
Gambling has long been a derisive issue, and considering its impact merely through the legal lens doesn’t quite capture its scope. Supporters point to increased revenue for states, providing an opportunity for the expansion of various economic endeavors. For example, sports betting revenue skyrocketed in 2022 to a record $7.5 billion following the Murphy decision. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis stated that the introduction of on-site betting at the Tribe’s casinos “will create jobs, increase tourism, and provide billions in added revenue for our state.”
However, gambling has also been viewed as an unethical practice by opponents; gaming introduces moral implications when considering the availability of wagering to vulnerable individuals, especially youths. According to the American Psychological Association, individuals in their early 20s represent the fastest-growing group of gamblers, and gambling at a young age “carries a relatively high burden of psychological distress and increased chances of developing problems.” With the expansion of sports betting across the country, researchers have begun collecting data to determine whether this development is resulting in increased gambling problems and addiction, but an early examination of one researcher’s findings “suggest[s] that people who engage in sports betting appear to develop gambling problems at particularly high rates and are at higher risk for mental health and substance abuse problems compared with other gamblers.” Additionally, around “14% of sports bettors reported thoughts of suicide and 10% said they had made a suicide attempt,” found one researcher in New Jersey.
Sports betting is here to stay. The revenue produced by the gaming industry is likely too large to compete against any ethical concerns in a meaningful way. Ultimately, states should consider providing more resources and implementing increased disclosures or warnings for individuals who struggle with problem gambling. The minimum gambling age varies across states, but legislatures should consider providing more protections for vulnerable individuals, and particularly those under 21 who may legally be allowed to gamble while having access to online or on-site sports betting. Considering the massive source of revenue for states that have authorized sports betting, at least a portion of this new-found wealth should be dedicated to protecting youths exposed to gaming and rehabilitating individuals who experience gambling addictions.
 Murphy v. Nat’l Collegiate Athletic Ass’n, 138 S. Ct. 1461 (2018).  Id. at 1418.  Id. at 1475.  Id. at 1476.  Id. at 1471.  Chris Bengel and Shanna McCarriston, U.S. Sports Betting: Here’s Where All 50 States Currently Stand on Legalizing Online Sports Betting Sites, CBS Sports (Oct. 13, 2023), https://www.cbssports.com/general/news/u-s-sports-betting-heres-where-all-50-states-currently-stand-on-legalizing-online-sports-betting-sites/#:~:text=Sports%20betting%20is%20now%20legal,%2C%20Wyoming%2C%20Arkansas%20and%20more.  Matt Sczesny and Allen Cone, When Will Online Sports Betting Begin in Florida?, WPTV (Nov. 2, 2023), https://www.wptv.com/news/state/when-will-online-sports-betting-begin-in-florida.  See 25 U.S.C. §§ 2710 et seq. (1996) (certain sections held unconstitutional in Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Fla., 517 U.S. 44 (1996)); 2021 Gaming Compact Between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the State of Florida, https://www.flgov.com/wp-content/uploads/pdfs/2021%20Gaming%20Compact.pdf.  Sczesny & Cone, supra note 6.  Id.  Id.  Doug Greenberg, Expanded Legal Betting Access Leads to Record Year, Front Office Sports (Feb. 16, 2023), https://frontofficesports.com/sports-betting-industry-record-7-5b-2022-revenue/.  David Purdum, Florida to Launch Retail Sports Betting in December, ESPN (Nov. 1, 2023), https://www.espn.com/espn/betting/story/_/id/38793770/florida-launch-retail-sports-betting-december.  Emily Sohn, How Gambling Affects the Brain and Who is Most Vulnerable to Addiction, American Psychology Association (July 1, 2023), https://www.apa.org/monitor/2023/07/how-gambling-affects-the-brain.  Id.  Id.  Id.