Cash-hungry states like Illinois, New Jersey, and California are eyeing sports betting as a possible way to bridge budget gaps, given the fact the March Madness basketball championship is reaping millions right now for the handful of states that allow wagering on college and pro sports.
According to The New York Times
, federal law permits sports betting in only four states at the moment — Delaware, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon — and bans it in the other 46. But California, Illinois, and New Jersey are pressing for admission to the club, despite strong opposition from the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the major professional sports leagues.
“The NCAA maintains that the spread of legalized sports wagering is a threat to the integrity of athletic competition and student-athlete well-being,” the college sports oversight organization said in a statement reported by the Times on Thursday.
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At stake, however, are millions of dollars state officials may be unwilling to turn their backs on, despite concerns that betting creates an atmosphere that attracts fraud, including game-rigging. Nevada, the gaming capital of the world, took in $3.4 billion last year alone from sports betting and $15 million of it was deposited directly into state tax-revenue coffers.
In New Jersey, voters passed a referendum by an overwhelming margin to make sports betting illegal, and last year Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed a law expanding gaming at Atlantic City’s 12 casinos to include sports betting, according to the Times.
But the efforts have gone nowhere because the federal courts have upheld the current ban on sports betting, with the exception of the four states where it’s allowed. In an effort to thwart betting supporters in New Jersey, the NCAA has also canceled some tournaments in the state and has joined with the four major sports leagues representing pro football, basketball, baseball, and hockey in a federal lawsuit to stop the state from implementing its new sports betting law.
Still, other states are joining New Jersey in pushing back against the federal ban, which could end up being challenged before the Supreme Court. According to the Times, Illinois lawmakers are considering legislation that would allow sports betting, and California lawmakers plan to reintroduce a betting bill that passed the state Senate last year.
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