Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act

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The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (commonly abbreviated PASPA or alternatively referred to as the Bradley Act) is a 1992 federal law that banned sports betting in the United States with exception to four states. PASPA has since been ruled unconstitutional and overturned allowing states to enforce their own sports betting laws.


1991: Senate Judiciary hearings

The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Patents, Copyrights and Trademarks held a public hearing on June 26, 1991.[1] In this hearing it was determined that sports betting was a national problem that leaked across state lines in a manner that was not covered by the 1961 Federal Wire Act. In the Senate's report it was determined that the issue required federal intervention.

Sports gambling is a national problem. The harms it inflicts are felt beyond the borders of those States that sanction it.[1]

The Senate agreed with then NBA commissioner David Stern who provided testimony during the 1991 hearing:

The interstate ramifications of sports betting are a compelling reason for federal legislation.[1]

1992: Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act

The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was effective as of October 28, 1992.[1] The federal law outlawed sports betting in the United States. Title 28 of the United States Code section 3702 reads:

It shall be unlawful for—

(1) a governmental entity to sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license, or authorize by law or compact, or

(2) a person to sponsor, operate, advertise, or promote, pursuant to the law or compact of a governmental entity,

a lottery, sweepstakes, or other betting, gambling, or wagering scheme based, directly or indirectly (through the use of geographical references or otherwise), on one or more competitive games in which amateur or professional athletes participate, or are intended to participate, or on one or more performances of such athletes in such games.[2]

Exemptions from the federal law applied to states that had either been operating legalized sports betting services prior to August 31, 1990, or had legalized sports wagering between September 1, 1989 and October 2, 1991.[3] This meant that the sports lotteries operated by the states of Delaware, Montana, and Oregon as well as the licensed sports books in Nevada would continue under PASPA. Congress provided all states which had been operating licensed casinos for the prior decade a one year period to pass state sports betting legislation. At the time New Jersey was the best candidate to take advantage of this although they ultimately did not pass the necessary laws.

2009: New Jersey challenge of PASPA

In March 2009 New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak used his own money to open up a lawsuit citing PASPA as unconstitutional. The suit declared that 46 states were being discriminated against being unable to pass sports betting legislation. Lesniak stated PASPA was a violation of the Tenth Amendment as gambling regulation is not a right granted to the federal government by the U.S. Constitution.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Lesniak's suit was dismissed as it would have to be brought on by the state's governor. In a nonbinding referendum held on November 2011 voters of New Jersey backed legalized sports betting by a 2-to-1 margin.[4]. On May 24, 2012 governor Chris Christie announced plans to bring sports betting to New Jersey casinos and race tracks:[4]

"We intend to go forward and allow sports gambling to happen, if someone wants to stop us, they’ll have to take action to stop us."[4]

On August 7, 2012 all major American sports leagues and the NCAA filed a lawsuit against New Jersey citing that their sports betting law was in violation of PASPA.[5]. New Jersey countered that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act itself did not adhere to the Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The court ultimately ruled in favor of the leagues citing that the proposed law was in violation of PASPA.

2018: Supreme Court rules PASPA unconstitutional

After a series of appeals New Jersey's case was brought to the Supreme Court of the United States. On June 27, 2017 the court accepted the case of Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association. After hearing oral arguments on December 4, 2017, the court ruled that PASPA was unconstituional on May 14, 2018. Going forward states are now allowed to enforce their own sports betting laws.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "The Constitutionality of PASPA", Kate Main, Saint Louis University School of Law. Retrieved on 2020-02-12
  2. "28 U.S. Code CHAPTER 178—PROFESSIONAL AND AMATEUR SPORTS PROTECTION", Cornell Law School. Retrieved on 2020-02-12
  3. "PASPA: Sports Protection Act", Gambling Law US. Retrieved on 2020-02-12
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "N.J. Moves Towards Legal Sports Betting This Fall, in Time for NFL Season", National Law Review. Retrieved on 2020-02-12
  5. "Constitutionality Of Sports Betting Prohibition At Issue In NCAA And Professional Leagues' Lawsuit Against New Jersey", Darren Heitner, Forbes. Retrieved on 2020-02-12