Inside how sports betting went mainstream

ByDavid Purdum Via <a Href="" Title="espn" Class="espn_sc_byline">espn </a>
November 05, 2018, 12:39 PM

The sports betting landscape in America shifted forever on a Monday morning in May, when the U.S. Supreme Court released a game-changing ruling that put the nation on a path toward widespread legal sports betting.

Shortly after 10 a.m. ET, on May 14, the Supreme Court struck down the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which for 26 years had limited legal sports betting to primarily Las Vegas.

The interest in the decision was remarkable.

SCOTUS had already decided cases on terrorism, immigration and human rights violations in the term, but none of those hot-button issues generated near the public interest that the New Jersey sports betting case did. At, the preeminent site covering the Supreme Court, the post announcing the sports betting decision drew nearly double the page views of any other post since last June.

As soon as the ruling was released, social media lit up with a mix of excitement and concern. Stock prices for domestic and international bookmaking companies surged, and a New Jersey racetrack announced that it was hustling to begin taking sports bets within weeks. Sports betting had made national news -- for something other than a controversy.

Even Golden State coach Steve Kerr took notice, joking before Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals that he was "taking the Warriors +1.5."

"I read that whole story about gambling this morning," Kerr said with a smirk, "so now I guess I'm allowed to announce my picks."

To be clear: Americans were betting hundreds of billions of dollars on sports before the ruling and will continue doing so moving forward. Perhaps the most noticeable impact the Supreme Court ruling has had is that America now may be a little more comfortable talking about sports betting.

It's been a long process to get to this point.

Stiff opposition from the influential sports leagues, ties to the mob and decades of scandals tattooed a stigma on sports betting that other forms of gambling never had to overcome. On top of religious objections and concerns of addiction, sports betting was -- and continues to be -- viewed as a threat to the integrity of American sports.

There has been sudden sea change, though: In just the past five years, society's -- and the sports leagues' -- acceptance of sports betting has markedly increased. A myriad of factors brought us to this revolutionary point in American gambling history: Daily fantasy rose to prominence, the media embraced point-spread talk and the leagues, with the help of some new forward-thinking commissioners, softened their opposition.

It all culminated last week with a press conference that had the commissioner of the NBA sitting side-by-side with the CEO of one of the largest legal bookmakers in the U.S. to announce a partnership.

The times, they are a-changing, and whether or not America is ready, legal sports betting is now mainstream.

How did we get here?

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