It stayed that way for more than 25 years. But that law came off the books in May 2018, when the US Supreme Court deemed it unconstitutional.
Here’s a brief look at the history of the sports betting ban, the federal court cases against it, and what has happened
The history of US sports betting since PASPA
Congress enacts the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which bans all single-game wagering in the United States, outside of Nevada. It grandfathers limited forms of wagering in other states. New Jersey had a brief window in which it could have legalized wagering, but it failed to do so. The bill was sponsored by former NBA player, Sen. Bill Bradley
NJ voters enact a referendum allowing sports betting at the state’s racetracks and Atlantic City casinos.
The NCAA and four pro sports leagues — NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball — sue New Jersey to stop it from offering sports betting under the 2011 referendum. Sports betting is not allowed to proceed in the state.
A judge in the US District Court for NJ granted an injunction to keep NJ from having sports betting. Michael Shipp at the time wrote there was “an undisputed direct link between legalized gambling and harm to the Leagues.” The leagues would spend the next five years arguing that a repeal of PASPA would harm them.
New Jersey appealed to the Third Circuit after its loss in a lower federal court. Oral arguments took place over the summer, and a three-judge panel again found for the leagues, 2-1. The US Supreme Court declined to take up the case. NJ sports betting remained in no man’s land.
New Jersey alters its sports betting law based on direction from the Third Circuit in its decision. The new law is signed by Gov. Chris Christie.
The NCAA and the pro sports leagues instantly file in federal court again to block NJ from implementing its new sports betting law.
The same District Court judge that found against New Jersey in the first iteration of the case again hands the state another loss in what has become a string of them.
New Jersey loses for the third time at the federal appeals level, as the Third Circuit sides with the leagues once more in an “en banc” hearing. The last possible recourse in the case is the US Supreme Court.
New Jersey appealed the Third Circuit decision to the US Supreme Court in October 2016. But unlike the first time NJ tried, SCOTUS agreed to hear the case this time. The Supreme Court often overrules lower court hearings when it takes a case, so many were hopeful this time NJ sports betting might actually happen.
The biggest moment in the history of the NJ sports betting case comes down to one hour of oral arguments in Washington, DC. The state of New Jersey and the pro sports leagues each have their final chance to tell the nine SCOTUS justices why PASPA should be struck down or upheld.
West Virginia gets ready to go even before the Supreme Court decisions comes in. The state became the first of the year to pass a new law legalizing sports wagering.
The biggest moment in the history of US sports betting comes when the US Supreme Court rules for New Jersey and strikes down PASPA. Not only will New Jersey be able to have sports betting, but any other state outside of Nevada that wants to can legalize wagering too. And a lot of states will take that step in the coming weeks and years.
New Jersey won the case. But Delaware won the race to sports betting. The First State also became the first state with single-game wagering outside of Nevada, beating NJ by a few weeks Delaware only launches with retail sports betting. The state was also won one of the few states originally grandfathered in by PASPA, with parlay wagering allowed on NFL games. Delaware didn’t pass a new law to move forward, relying on existing law and regulations.
Just a month after winning in the Supreme Court, NJ actually passes a new sports betting law. The existing law allowed for what amounted to unregulated sports betting throughout the state. The new law clears up where and how sports wagering can occur, including details about online sports betting apps.
Mississippi had legalized wagering in the previous year, changing its existing law to allow for it should PASPA be struck down. When it was, it opened up the floodgates, as more than two dozen sportsbooks would open in the state over the coming months.
New Mexico never actually legalized sports betting specifically, but tribal casinos could start to offer it under their existing compacts. The first one of those went live at Santa Ana Star Casino.
Arkansas got into the sports betting mix late in the year, as voters approved casinos. At the same time sports betting was legalized at those casinos, with sportsbooks on the way in 2019.
The city’s mayor approved sports betting, but it would fully take effect later in the spring when Congress allowed the measure to become law.