Photos taken at Las Vegas.

By Leon Stern

The consequences of a criminal conviction are far reaching even after the individual has paid his debt to society through timed serve.[1]  However, what happens when the consequence is for a crime now deemed acceptable by the law?  In 2018, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional, a law that once prohibited individuals from engaging in sports betting.[2]  In 2014, New Jersey passed a new law which removed the state’s prohibition on sports betting by persons twenty-one or older.[3]  The National Collegiate Athletic Association (hereinafter “NCAA”) filed suit against New Jersey, alleging the actions were in direct violation of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.[4]  This was brought before the Supreme Court, which held that the federal law violated the anti-commandeering doctrine.[5]  The Anti-commandeering doctrine, in simplest terms, is a structural incorporation in the Constitution, which withholds from Congress the power to issue orders directly to the states.[6]  The Court reasoned that the federal law essentially was allowing Congress to exercise direct control over a state’s legislature and was an affront to state sovereignty.[7]

States soon began to enact or plan legislation to regulate this new giant.[8]  Most legislation limits sports betting to specialized facilities and larger casinos, but the District of Columbia may be making new changes which would allow for smaller businesses to get in on the new market.[9]  In 2019, the D.C. Counsel passed a bill which noted the inclusion of Certified Business Enterprises who would be able to participate in the sports wagering industry.[10]  Inclusion of smaller businesses in the sports betting market could create more competition and generate significant revenue for the states.[11]  With the benefits gained as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision, one has to wonder, what are the consequences for those who were convicted of illegal sports betting?

The legalization of marijuana came with restrictions imposed on previously convicted felons.[12]  Maryland allowed for individuals convicted solely of a drug offense to obtain a distribution license so long as the individual served his time prior to application for a license.[13]  However, individuals convicted of certain additional felonies were prohibited from obtaining a license.[14]  In 2017, an individual was convicted of running an illegal gambling operation that generated more than $3 million a year.[15]  This individual was convicted of several other crimes in addition to his illegal sports gambling.[16]  Collateral consequences of a criminal conviction are serious and, in the context of sports gambling, limit opportunities for people to participate in a booming market.[17]  Moving forward, legislation surrounding sports betting should attempt to mirror the laws on recreational marijuana found in states like D.C. and allow individuals convicted solely of sports gambling to participate in the market.[18]  

[1] See Words From Prison: The Collateral Consequences of Incarceration, ACLU, (last visited Mar. 2, 2019) (hereinafter “ACLU”) (stating that employment opportunities for people convicted of a crime are extremely limited).

[2] See Unlawful Sports Gambling 28 U.S.C.A. § 3702 (2012), invalidated by Murphy v. NCAA, 138 S. Ct. 1461 (2018).

[3] See Murphy v. NCAA, 138 S.Ct. 1461, 1466 (2018).

[4] See id.

[5] See id.

[6] See id. at 1475.

[7] See id. at 1478 (stating that the provision “unequivocally dictates what a state legislature may and may not do).

[8] See Ryan Rodenberg, State by State sports betting bill tracker, Espn (Feb. 13, 2019), (listing several states that have begun to discuss different approaches to regulating sports gambling).

[9] See 4 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 13C11 (2017); Nicholaus Garcia, D.C. Small Businesses Push for Single Supplier Sports Betting Process, Playusa (Jan. 29, 2019), (discussing the potential inclusion of small businesses in the gambling market) 

[10] See Nicholaus, supra note 9 (stating the importance of inclusion of CBEs’ in the sports wagering market).

[11] See id. (discussing the potential for D.C. to gain an increased revenue of up to $92 million from regulation of sports gambling); see also Darren Heitner, How Legalized Sports Betting Could Bring in $6.03 Billion Annually by 2023, Forbes (Sept. 27, 2017),

[12] See Md. Code Ann. Health-Gen. § 13-3306(a)(5)(iii) (West 2018) (listing restrictions for obtaining a medical marijuana distribution license within the state of Maryland).

[13] See id. § 13-3306(a) (West 2018) (stating that individuals who have yet to fully meet the terms of their sentencing shall be denied a distribution license by the commission).

[14] See id. § 13-3306(a)(5)(iii) (stating that individuals convicted of crimes such as operating as a Kingpin shall be denied a distribution license by the commission).

[15] See Mary Whitfill, Braintree Man Sentenced in $6 million sports betting ring, The Patriot Ledger (Oct. 3, 2017),

[16] Id. (stating that Mr. Woodman was charged for money laundering in addition to several other acts in connection to illegal gambling).

[17] See ACLU, supra note 1 (highlighting the different effects that a criminal conviction can have on individuals).

[18] See D.C. Code § 7-1671.06(j)(2018)

Share this post