While the U.S. Supreme Court mulls over whether to take on the state of New Jersey’s challenge to the federal law that bans sports gambling in most of the country, President Trump and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred both have weighed in on the subject in recent days. Surprisingly, the former Atlantic City casino owner in the White House seems inclined to tread a more cautious path.
“Well, what I’d do is I’d sit down with the commissioners. I would be talking to them, and we’ll see how they feel about it. Some would not want it, and probably others — and I’ve read others maybe do,” Trump told Westwood One’s Jim Gray in an interview broadcast on Super Bowl Sunday. “But I would certainly want to get their input and get the input from the various leagues, and we’ll see how they feel about it. I’d also get the input from lots of law enforcement officials, because, obviously, that’s a big step.
“So we wouldn’t do it lightly, I can tell you. It will be studied very carefully. But I would want to have a lot of input from a lot of different people.”
One of those people undoubtedly would be Manfred, who went a step further toward a more enlightened stance on legalized sports gambling Wednesday at the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit in New York.
“There is this buzz out there in terms of people feeling that there may be an opportunity here for additional legalized sports betting,” Manfred said. “We are reexamining our stance on gambling. It’s a conversation that’s ongoing with the owners.”
“Sports betting happens,” Manfred continued. “Whether it’s legalized here or not, it’s happening out there. So I think the question for sports is really, ‘Are we better off in a world where we have a nice, strong, uniform, federal regulation of gambling that protects the integrity of sports, provides sports with the tools to ensure that there is integrity in the competition … or are we better off closing our eyes to that and letting it go on as illegal gambling? And that’s a debatable point.”
As Dustin Gouker of Legal Sports Report points out, this isn’t the first time Manfred has suggested a new path toward regulated sports gambling might be the best way to go. But it is the first time Manfred has said federal regulation and not a patchwork of state-by-state regulations is the way to go, much like NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said in the past.
Both the NBA and MLB have joined the other pro sports leagues and the NCAA in trying to stop New Jersey’s attempts to legalize sports gambling in the state, an attempt to prop up the sagging fortunes of its casinos and racetracks. At issue is the legality of PASPA, the 1992 federal law that prohibits sports gambling in all but a handful of states. The Supreme Court is deciding whether to take the case and last month asked the solicitor general — who argues the U.S. government’s side in most Supreme Court cases but is not involved in the New Jersey case — to review the arguments to help them decide whether they have merit.
Yahoo’s Liz Goodwin reported Wednesday that Chuck Cooper has emerged as Trump’s choice for solicitor general, which sports-law analyst Daniel Wallach thinks could be a good sign for proponents of legalized sports gambling.