The U.S. Supreme Court paved the way Monday for sweeping changes in the multibillion dollar business of sports gambling — including in Florida — by giving states the option to legalize such wagering.
Florida is among more than a dozen states experts predict will be among the first to allow gamblers to legally bet on games, including those involving the Dolphins, Heat, Panthers and Marlins.
By a 6-3 majority, the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), a 1992 law that prevented states from authorizing most forms of sports gambling outside Nevada.
“If that’s going to be something that’s allowed here in Florida, you can bet — no pun intended — the folks at our place are going to want to be in on that action,” said Pat Rooney Jr., president and CEO of the Palm Beach Kennel Club.
Rooney said he asked his attorneys to investigate what the ruling could mean for his facility and added that he would “absolutely” consider expanding his gaming area if demand called for it.
“I don’t think any gaming institution would turn down any additional forms of gaming,” Rooney said.
Rooney, a former state representative, predicted the Florida legislature would be more likely to legalize sports gambling if it sensed a need to keep pace with neighboring states such as Georgia and Alabama.
“I would think that would be an impetus for the legislature to look more closely at it,” Rooney said of competition among states. “If they’re not, it might be something that the legislature tends to take a long view of wait and see. Hopefully they’ll be a little proactive with this, but just knowing my experience with it, the legislature is generally not proactive with anything.”
In January, the Associated Press included Florida in a list of states most likely to introduce bills legalizing sports betting. Others mentioned were Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, West Virginia, Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma and California. Indiana and Kentucky already had introduced bills.
The verdict was a victory for New Jersey, which spent years fighting the ban. The effort was led by then-Gov. Chris Christie, who had predicted sports books could open within two weeks of a victory.
The NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball contested New Jersey’s efforts, fearing gambling could endanger the integrity of their games.
The Dolphins did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In August 2016, the Dolphins’ organization entered a naming-rights deal worth a reported $250 million to call its facility Hard Rock Stadium.
Hard Rock International operates in 75 countries, with more than 180 cafes, 24 hotels and 11 casinos, including the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, just minutes from the stadium.
Tom Garfinkel, president and CEO of the Dolphins, said despite the naming deal, the Dolphins aren’t affiliated with the casino.
“Certainly the NFL gets involved from that standpoint,” Garfinkel said when the deal was announced. “The Hard Rock is compliant with the current policy, so I think that was important. The deal we did isn’t with the casino. The deal we did is with the entertainment brand of Hard Rock — the hotels, the restaurants and live music brand. So those are pretty separate.”
In a statement Monday, the NFL said, “We intend to call on Congress again, this time to enact a core regulatory framework for legalized sports betting. We also will work closely with our clubs to ensure that any state efforts that move forward in the meantime protect our fans and the integrity of our game.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver added, “We remain in favor of a federal framework that would provide a uniform approach to sports gambling in states that choose to permit it, but we will remain active in ongoing discussions with state legislatures. Regardless of the particulars of any future sports betting law, the integrity of our game remains our highest priority.”
The Supreme Court ruling also could have an impact on Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach. Alex Waldrop, president and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, pointed out that horse racing no longer enjoys a monopoly of sorts in the wagering world.
“Our multibillion dollar industry must rise to the challenges and seize the opportunities presented by this expansion of sports betting,” he wrote.
Justice Samuel Alito wrote the Supreme Court opinion, saying, “The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make. Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each state is free to act on its own. Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PASPA is not.”
In a statement, Major League Baseball said the ruling “will have profound effects” on its sport.
“As each state considers whether to allow sports betting, we will continue to seek the proper protections for our sport, in partnership with other professional sports,” MLB wrote. “Our most important priority is protecting the integrity of our games. We will continue to support legislation that creates air-tight coordination and partnerships between the state, the casino operators and the governing bodies in sports toward that goal.”
The American Gaming Association, whose members include casino operators, hailed the decision as “a victory for the millions of Americans who seek to bet on sports in a safe and regulated manner,” said Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the AGA.
Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook.