Sports betting in Utah? Not so fast

John Locher
Crystal Kalahiki pays out a bet in the sports book at the South Point hotel-casino, Monday, May 14, 2018, in Las Vegas. The Supreme Court on Monday gave its go-ahead for states to allow gambling on sports across the nation, striking down a federal law that barred betting on football, basketball, baseball and other sports in most states. (AP Photo/John Locher)

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The U.S. Supreme Court decided on May 14 to end a federal law banning sports betting outside of Nevada. This will allow individual states to choose when and how to legislate these betting activities.

However, don’t expect to place any bets on the Utah Jazz, Real Salt Lake or any collegiate sporting events within Utah any time soon, according to state officials.

“Gov. (Gary) Herbert appreciates the Supreme Court’s reaffirmation of states’ rights to regulate gambling within their borders, a right Utah will exercise by continuing to prohibit gambling within our state,” said Gov. Herbert’s spokesman Paul Edwards.

Gambling is illegal in Utah and is classified as a class B misdemeanor. A prohibition of internet gambling was added to the state code in 2012.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who was an original sponsor of the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act that was overturned by the Supreme Court, said he plans on introducing new federal legislation in the coming weeks.

“The problems posed by sports betting are much the same as they were 25 years ago,” Hatch said in a press release. “But the rapid rise of the internet means that sports betting across state lines is now just a click away. We cannot allow this practice to proliferate amid uneven enforcement and a patchwork race to the regulatory bottom. At stake is the very integrity of sports.”

The American Gambling Association estimates that over $150 billion is wagered illegally on U.S. sporting events each year.

Just this year alone, an estimated $15 billion was spent on the Super Bowl and NCAA men’s basketball tournament, with 97 percent of those bets being illegal.

The American Gambling Association also said match-fixing is harder to detect outside a legal betting system.

From New Jersey to the U.S. Supreme Court

The original court case began after New Jersey passed a bill in 2012 allowing sports betting.

The NCAA and three professional sports organizations sued, alleging that the new law violated the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.

The state responded by saying it was within its sovereign rights to change its constitution and enact new laws, which it did in 2012 and 2014.

After federal courts sided with the NCAA and leagues, the Supreme Court voted 6-3 to strike down the 1992 legislation.

Justice Samuel Alito expressed the opinion of the Supreme Court on the matter.

“Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each state is free to act on its own.”

For Utah, this means gambling remains illegal. Those wanting to legally place wagers must head to Nevada while Colorado, Arizona, Idaho and Wyoming decide on their approach to adopting legislation on sports betting.

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