Supreme Court could let states allow sports bets

If you are among the many Americans who enjoy investing a buck or two on a sporting contest, the most intriguing matchup of the next few days isn’t Ohio State (-5) vs. Wisconsin or 49ers (+3) vs. Bears.

It’s Christie vs. NCAA, set for Monday at a neutral site, the U.S. Supreme Court. A decision should come sometime next year.

At issue is a 25-year-old federal statute that makes it illegal to bet on sports in much of the country.

The justices — and history books — may be more interested in it as a way to debate the 10th amendment to the U.S. Constitution and federalism vs. states’ rights, and the far-reaching implications of that on just about every hot-button issue today.

NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball.

Each time the state has challenged the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or PASPA, the lower federal courts have upheld the proscriptions that turn a nation of fans into scofflaws and taken a potentially lucrative source of state, county, municipal and tribal revenue underground and off the table.

ESPN audience.

Another is The Action Network, a startup former News Corp. CEO Peter Chernin’s The Chernin Group is developing. Its other investments include a big bet on Barstool Sports.

Recruited to head media for The Action Network is Highland Park High School grad Chad Millman, who had been ESPN’s editorial director of domestic digital content and editor of ESPN The Magazine before that.

Millman, who created the gambling beat for ESPN, describes the new venture on his personal website as “delivering premium content and analytics to the invested sports fan.” The invested sports fan is the betting sports fan.

Once-reluctant states eventually embraced the numbers rack- …, er, lottery and other forms of gaming have spread well beyond Nevada in recent years. Even pro sports leagues that used to be adamantly against gambling in any form have relaxed some stands of late.

Allowing casinos and fantasy sports advertising have pumped money to teams. Fantasy sports, which clings to the fig leaf that it isn’t gambling because it’s about individual performance and not the outcome of a contest, have been tolerated in many jurisdictions and embraced by leagues that love the fan engagement it engenders.

If you ever doubt NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell could be an Olympic gymnast, watch him contort himself praising fantasy play while continuing to rail against the other financial investments on how things play out on any given Sunday that made his league and sport formidable.

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