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May 15, 2018

Supreme Court ruling sets stage for Maine to legalize sports gambling

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday opened the door for Maine to allow betting on sporting events, invalidating a federal law that prohibited such wagers in all but Nevada.

The court, in an opinion by Justice Samuel Alito, sided with a challenge brought by the state of New Jersey, which waged a six-year battle to allow sports betting within its borders. The state had been unable to do so because of the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a federal law that says states can't "sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license, or authorize" sports gambling.

ESPN reports that New Jersey, Delaware, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are among the states expected to legalize sports betting.

In his ruling, Alito openly acknowledges that sports betting is controversial, even in states like New Jersey that have extensively legalized other forms of gambling such as casinos.

"The legalization of sports gambling is a controversial subject," he wrote. "Supporters argue that legalization will produce revenue for the states and critically weaken illegal sports betting operations, which are often run by organized crime. Opponents contend that legalizing sports gambling will hook the young on gambling, encourage people of modest means to squander their savings and earnings, and corrupt professional and college sports."

But Alito concluded that although legalizing sports gambling is "an important policy choice," he concluded it is not the choice of courts to make. His decision reverses a federal court ruling blocking New Jersey from implementing a 2011 state referendum vote allowing sports betting.

How does this effect Maine?

Monday's landmark decision by the Supreme Court paves the way for states to legalize sports betting.

But Maine Public reported Maine lags behind dozens of other states that are poised to take advantage of the ruling. "There's roughly about 30-35 states that are in the queue with either laws and/or rulemaking," Maine Gambling Control Board Director Milton Champion told Maine Public's Steve Mistler.

State Rep. Louis Luchini, D-Ellsworth, co-chairman of the Legislature's Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, told Maine Public that he anticipated there would be numerous bills submitted in the next session to create rules for Maine to take advantage of the court ruling. He expected it will be a contentious issue.

"I think with any talk of expanded gaming, it's always a fight between who would be able to do it and who can't," Luchini said. "So we will see all these people either working together to get it legalized or to team up to get exclusive rights."

Gaming stocks hit record highs

Reuters reported that the Supreme Court ruling ignited a rally in gaming stocks, sending several to record highs. Companies specializing in gambling technology gained 10% or more, Reuters reported, adding that shares of Scientific Games Corp., which develops gaming systems and sports-betting technology, jumped more than 11% to a record high close.

Reuters reported that shares of casino and racing facility operators also rose, noting that Churchill Downs, which owns and operates the Oxford Casino and hosts the Kentucky Derby In Louisville, K.Y., rose 4.9% to a record high, while Penn National Gaming (which operates the Hollywood Casino in Bangor) climbed 4.7%, also to a record.

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