Graphic by Chelsea Wood

Betting on the Super Bowl Doesn’t Always Pay Off

Clarifying the legality of betting on the Super Bowl
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Clarifying the legality of betting on the Super Bowl

When you think of Super Bowl betting, you might think of a couple friends harmlessly betting $50 on their hometown team. But Super Bowl betting is illegal in California.

In 2015, the Association of Government Accountants estimated that people illegally wagered around $145 billion on sports betting. The AGA seeks to increase government accountability and transparency, according to its site.

Clearly, even if it’s invisible to most, a lot of money is being illegally transferred through sports betting.

Under California Penal Code 330, California state law says that gambling is illegal, with the exception of Native American reservation casinos, card clubs, charitable gambling, horse wagering and the California State Lottery.

On Sunday, Feb. 2, the San Francisco 49ers will play the Kansas City Chiefs for the 2020 Super Bowl. Whether you’re watching the game or just going to a party to eat barbecue, you probably at least know someone that’s going to be watching, and more than likely, know someone placing a bet on the outcome of the game.

In California it’s illegal to bet on the Super Bowl or sports of any kind, but people bet on the game anyway. In the 1990s the prohibition on sports betting began and all sports betting became illegal nationwide.

Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 1992, which banned governmental entities from legalizing sports wagering.

Yet in a 2018 United States Supreme Court case, Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, the Court overturned PASPA due to its conflict with the Tenth Amendment.

“Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each State is free to act on its own,” Justice Samuel Alito said.

Online betting is a popular form of wagering on the Super Bowl, but when you go to place a bet, you have to confirm your state of occupancy—thereby restricting Californians.

Under California Penal Code 330, California state law says that gambling is illegal, with the exception of Native American reservation casinos, card clubs, charitable gambling, horse wagering and the California State Lottery.

“Every person who plays or bets at or against any of those prohibited games, is guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall be punishable by a fine not less than one hundred dollars ($100) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by both the fine and imprisonment,” the code says.

So if you plan on betting on this upcoming game, know what you’re getting yourself into.

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