Washington Post Poll: America Is Ready For Legalized Sports Betting

As New Jersey’s sports betting backers eagerly await their day in front of the Supreme Court of the United States, the court of public opinion has already spoken.

A recent survey conducted by the Washington Post and the University of Massachusetts Lowell indicates that, for the first time, the general public is in favor of legal sports betting.

“A 55-percent majority approve of legalizing betting on pro sporting events, a flip from almost a quarter century ago, when a federal law went into effect banning the practice in most of the country and 56 percent of Americans disapproved of legalization in a Gallup/CNN/USA Today poll,” read the Washington Post’s article about the survey.

Tables have turned on sports betting since 1993

Public opinion on sports betting has essentially flipped in the last 25 years. In 1993, just a year after the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was passed, 56 percent of Americans were opposed to betting.

PASPA basically froze the sports betting landscape at the time, a landscape that included only four states with legalized sports betting: Nevada, Montana, Delaware, and Oregon.

According to the new poll, 55 percent of Americans approve of sports betting. As for the numbers on disapproval, 41 percent of Americans fell into that category in 1993. Now, according to the Post/UMass Lowell survey, only 33 percent disapprove.

Does the opinion shift bode well for the SCOTUS case?

For many years, it seemed impossible that a gambling-friendly state like New Jersey would have a chance to legalize sports betting within its borders.

Inklings of anti-PASPA success started early on this decade. State Sen. Raymond Lesniak sponsored a bill in 2012 that won Gov. Chris Christie’s signature and legalized sports betting in New Jersey. But in light of that victory, the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, and NCAA filed a lawsuit against the state and won.

It wasn’t until New Jersey’s third try at legalization that it gained traction with the Supreme Court, which has decided to hear the state’s case.

One of New Jersey’s cornerstone arguments is that PASPA basically commands states not to pass a sports betting bill. The state argues this mandate violates an anti-commandeering principle that prevents Congress from bullying states.

Then, there’s the matter of whether increased public favorability toward gambling will matter in the Supreme Court’s ruling.

A recent Sports Illustrated article gives the impression the state might actually win its case.

“To the extent a majority of the justices believe that the federal government ought to leave questions of sports betting to the states, the odds of New Jersey winning increase,” SI wrote.