Report: Congress Should End Sports Betting Prohibition

A new report from the Competitive Enterprise Institute makes the case that Congress should end the federal government’s prohibition against sports betting and empower states to determine their own gambling rules and laws.

“Millions of Americans who bet on March Madness brackets are unwitting lawbreakers, no thanks to a government prohibition on sports betting,” said Michelle Minton, co-author of the report, Time to End the Madness around March Madness. “Even former President Barack Obama openly discussed his bracket picks and admitted to gambling on the games. Congress should repeal this prohibition and let states decide whether it makes sense to legalize sports gambling for their citizens.”

The report explains why the federal ban doesn’t deter people from betting billions on sporting events nor safeguard the integrity of games. Instead, the ban deprives states of billions in potential tax revenue and forces consumers into the black market where they have no protection from crime.

Americans spent an estimated $9 billion on the 2016 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. It’s unknown just how much money Americans bet on sporting events altogether, but it is believed to be between $150 billion to $400 billion a year. And some 95 to 99 percent of this economic activity takes place through illegal channels or on websites based offshore, which deprives American consumers of the protections of a legal market.

Congress created the ban 25 years ago that in effect blocks all states but Nevada from legally regulating bets on the outcome of individual sports contests. The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) prohibits states that did not already allow sports betting from licensing, promoting, or authorizing the activity. 

Protecting the integrity of sports was the original justification for PASPA, but as CEI’s report explains, it actually increases the risks of match-fixing and corruption.

View the report, Time to End the Madness around March Madness: Legalizing Sports Wagering Will Increase Consumer Safety and Protect State Sovereignty, by Steven Titch and Michelle Minton