Legalizing sports betting: Odds improving for the next big thingBy John L. Smith, CDC Gaming ReportsSeptember 18, 2017 at 9:50 pmLike the flashing numbers on the board at your favorite Las Vegas sports book, the odds of legalizing American gambling’s last taboo are gradually shifting from underdog to pick ‘em.Although you can’t legally wager on when the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 will be repealed by Congress or shredded by the U.S. Supreme Court, either of those options appears more likely than its status as essentially a national sports betting prohibition outside nefarious old Nevada.Although the gaming industry appeared to have an important inside track for the repeal of PASPA with the election of President Donald Trump, his clownish and chaotic first few months in office can’t inspire confidence in any but his greatest casino land apologists. Trump is doing for the office of President what Roseanne Barr did for “The Star-Spangled Banner.”But that doesn’t appear likely to stop the progress being made by those pushing to make PASPA a thing of the past.The American Gaming Association in early September filed a 26-page amicus brief with the supreme court supporting the merits of New Jersey’s legal argument against PASPA. The lobbying arm of the gaming industry continues its unprecedented effort to set the stage for the repeal of PASPA and the eventual legalization of sports betting outside Nevada. (Technically speaking, outside Oregon, Delaware, and Montana, too.)The justices appeared to have surprised the gaming industry when they agreed to hear the constitutional merits of the legal battle between New Jersey and the NCAA and other sports leagues. In its brief, the AGA argued that PASPA compels some states and tribal governments to follow a law that a large majority of their citizens disagree with. While federal courts have rejected New Jersey’s legal arguments in the past, the latest version of the state’s law enables it to repeal the federal prohibitions against sports betting.The brief states in part, “States Like New Jersey are compelled, at the federal government’s direction, to keep their antiquated sports betting laws and regulations effectively frozen in place at a federal standard. That result is irreconcilable with the constitutional system of dual sovereignty and dangerous in its own right.”Although it’s always hard to say how seriously any court, and especially the highest in the land, will take an amicus brief, the AGA makes a strong practical argument for repeal and legalization. When a country is betting an estimated $150 billion a year, most of it illegally, on sporting events, its citizens have moved beyond a belief in prohibition. When 18 states have already sided with repeal — and the ranks continue to grow — those who imagined PASPA would serve a higher or even effective purpose have lost their argument.For proof that tide is turning, look no further than the lawsuit filed by the NCAA, which is joined by the NFL. (Soon to be featuring the Las Vegas Raiders.) The original suit included the NBA and Major League Baseball. Now former NBA Commissioner David Stern and current Commissioner Adam Silver are on the record supporting a grownup transition from PASPA to legalization.The supreme court isn’t expected to rule on the New Jersey case until next year. Although a lot will be riding on the high court’s decision, and Congress proves every day it’s capable of failing to do the public’s business, and the president may never find his footing, political handicappers must take note of all the movement on this issue. And it all favors PASPA’s repeal or substantive revision. (Want a winning argument in Congress: Legalized betting on professional sports and leave the amateurs alone.)Give it time. It may feel almost as long and tedious as the NFL’s television timeouts, but in reality, change is coming more swiftly than you think.John L. Smith is a longtime Las Vegas journalist and author. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith.