Supreme Court May Pave Way For Legal Sports Betting

REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

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Kevin Daley Supreme Court correspondent
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The Supreme Court agreed to consider GOP New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s bid to revive a state law allowing sports betting at racetracks and casinos, in contravention of a federal statute restricting such forms of gambling to a handful of localities.

At issue in the litigation is the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), a federal law that prohibits sports betting in all states except Nevada, Oregon, Montana, and Delaware. The Christie administration championed a state law allowing sports gambling in New Jersey, as part of a broader effort to stimulate the state’s declining casino industry.

The justices consolidated two lower court decisions for a single hour of argument during the Court’s next term. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that New Jersey’s law is pre-empted by PASPA. New Jersey argues the law violates the anti-commandeering doctrine, which prohibits the federal government from compelling states to enact or enforce federal policy.

The Court called for the views of the solicitor general with respect to the case in January — on occasion the justices will seek a recommendation from the SG, the government’s top appeals lawyer, in deciding whether to take a case. Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall recommended a denial.

New Jersey Democratic Congressman Frank Pallone, a strong supporter of the state’s gambling law, praised the Court’s decision. Pallone is the architect of legislation repealing PASPA allowing states to legalize online gambling.

“I applaud the Supreme Court for taking on this case and potentially resolving a long history of hypocrisy and unfairness in federal law,” Pallone said in a statement. “Rather than continuing to allow criminal and offshore entities to reap the benefits of illegal gaming, there is now an opportunity for the Supreme Court to allow the democratic process in New Jersey to appropriately regulate sports gaming.”

The NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, and the NCAA all oppose the New Jersey law and urged the Supreme Court to deny review in the case.

(Disclosure: The author’s fiancee is employed by the firm representing the NCAA in this litigation.) 

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