Repeal of Prohibition in 1933 instantly reduced crime by reducing the number of criminalized activities, including some that millions of Americans considered victimless activities and none of the government’s business. Now, America is going to become more law-abiding, the Supreme Court having said that the federal government cannot prohibit states from legalizing what Americans have been doing anyway with at least 150 billion of their dollars annually. This figure (almost five times the combined revenues of MLB, the NFL, the NBA and the NHL; 14 times the movie industry’s domestic ticket sales) is a guess and might be much less than the actual sum that Americans wager on sports.
In 1992, when sports betting was illegal in most states, Congress, prompted by New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bill Bradley (Princeton all-American basketball player, Olympian, New York Knick), passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). This did not do what Congress has the power to do: Because of the court’s permissive construing of Congress’s power to regulate all sorts of more or less economic activities for all sorts of reasons, Congress could criminalize sports gambling. Instead, however, it gave New Jersey, alone among the 46 states that did not have such betting, one year to adopt it, after which New Jersey would be forbidden to do so.
Illegal sports betting was estimated to involve only $25 billion annually when PASPA was passed. Its subsequent burgeoning is redundant evidence that restraining a popular appetite with a statute is akin to lassoing a locomotive with a cobweb, which should chasten busybody governments. While one should formally frown upon the lawlessness of wagering Americans, their anarchic tendencies are, on balance, wholesome.
Also in 1992, the Supreme Court began enunciating the “anti-commandeering” doctrine: The federal government may not pursue its objectives by requiring states to use, or refrain from using, their resources for those objectives. The Constitution’s 10th Amendment (“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people”) means, the court has held, that “while Congress has substantial powers to govern the Nation directly, including in areas of intimate concern to the States, the Constitution has never been understood to confer