Published: Wed, December 06, 2017
Sports | By Spencer Underwood

SCOTUS Appears Ready to Rule In Favor of NJ Sports Betting

SCOTUS Appears Ready to Rule In Favor of NJ Sports Betting

Advocates for people who have gambling addictions agree, a New Jersey win could spark a rapid growth of legal sports betting, but worry that growth won't be matched by enough help for people who need it.

Writing for the website of the Cato Institute, a self-described think tank devoted to the principles of individual liberty and limited government, Ilya Shapiro wrote: "It's never smart to bet on the outcome of Supreme Court cases, but if I had to wager on the big federalism case disguised as a dispute over sports books, I'd double-down on New Jersey in its fight against professional sports and the USA government".

The case has been a highly-anticipated one, since a ban lifting could bring bookmaking of professional sports not only in the state of New Jersey, but also in many other U.S. states over the next half a decade. The nine justices hearing the arguments are expected to issue a ruling by 2018 in the spring.

His organization said Americans wager roughly $150 billion every year on sports. Currently, New Jersey is backed by at least 18 states (one of which is Texas), as well as the National Governors Association, and the contention of these states is that upholding a federal law like the one on sports betting could have a ripple effect that would limit the states' lawmaking independence on future issues like gun control, drug regulation, physician-assisted suicide, or self-driving cars.

Because Atlantic City was a powerful gambling destination in the '90s, Congress actually gave New Jersey a whole year to approve sports betting.

If New Jersey's efforts to overturn the decade's old sports wagering ban are successful, the decision could pave the way for legalized sports betting across the country.

Roughly 20 states are backing New Jersey, and Michelle Minton, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said they want to have the choice whether to tap into the black market that already exists.

At one point, according to transcripts, as Justice Stephen Breyer attempted to summarize New Jersey's arguments, Olson thanked him for doing it better than he could have.

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Olson told the court that since the federal government has not regulated the activity, there is nothing that allows it to preempt a state regulation. Yesterday, a hearing to the New Jersey's claim that USA states need to be given the chance to control their own laws, including the ones related to gambling, was carried out.

Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican who will leave office in January, sat in the front row of the courtroom during arguments at the high court and said afterward that if justices side with the state, the bets could be "taken in New Jersey within two weeks of a decision by the court". In 2012, with voters' support, state lawmakers authorized sports betting at the state's casinos and racetracks. Federal courts struck down that measure as violating PASPA, which says states other than Nevada may not "sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license or authorize by law or compact" a single-game sports-gambling system.

"Congress could have prohibited sports gambling itself", Justice Samuel Alito suggested to Paul Clement, another former US solicitor general who is representing the NCAA and major sports leagues. Justice Clarence Thomas did not ask a question or indicate a position. The other option is that Court rules that PASPA is unconstitutional. However, the state was sued in court over the change in law, and it was squashed.

Governor Christie echoed these arguments saying: "I think it violates the Tenth Amendment, and that's why I think you saw so many governors join the [amicus brief] on this, because they understand that today's sports gaming will be something else tomorrow". Frank Pallone (D-NJ) is introducing legislation that will strike down the ban if the Supreme Court does not.

Paul Clement, representing the sports leagues, said the law was clear.

"So why is it that telling the states that it can't license, participate in, authorize, or otherwise involve itself in gambling a strict prohibition of a commercial actor?" But how, she asked, do we know when the scheme is sufficiently detailed?

"First, they have gambling already".

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