UK gambling firms are looking across the Atlantic for expansion after the US Supreme Court made a landmark ruling that could allow states across the country to legalise sports betting.
In May, the Supreme Court decision both endorsed a 2014 New Jersey state court ruling that permitted sports betting at casinos and horse racing tracks within the state, and struck down a 1992 federal law banning sports gambling in general.
A number of US sports bodies, including the National Basketball Association (NBA) opposed the move as they argued that legalised sports betting could interfere with the integrity of their leagues and tournaments.
However, the Justices found that the legalisation of sports betting should be down to federal and state legislatures, as it is an “important policy choice” that should not be decided by the courts. Justice Samuel Alito wrote on behalf of the Supreme Court: “Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each state is free to act on its own.”
The decision caused gambling stocks to surge, including those of UK-based William Hill and Paddy Power Betfair, that could reap the benefits of a liberalisation of sports betting in the US.
Less than 10 days after the decision, Paddy Power Betfair announced it had reached a deal to acquire the popular US fantasy sports firm FanDuel, a move that would give it a launchpad within the US market as states open up to sports betting in the coming years.
Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have already made moves to allow sports betting within state limits, and on Wednesday Michigan became the latest state to follow suit after the state House voted 68-40 to legalise online gambling. Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and West Virginia have all also considered online gambling bills this year.
The introduction of sports betting to the US also gives sports teams a possible new avenue for sponsorship deals. CasinoGuardian reporting that several US sports teams have already approached William Hill with new promotional opportunities, at a time when in the UK people are calling for bans on betting adverts during sporting events and on team shirts.