SCOTUS To Hear Case On The Future Of Sports Gambling

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Ted Goodman Contributor
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The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up a case this fall on whether the federal government should posses the power to prohibit states from legalizing sports gambling.

Sports gambling is expected to rake in north of $100 billion in bets this year, according to attorney Jonathan Wood of the Pacific Legal Foundation. The case about to be heard has drastic consequences that go beyond the wide world of sports.

The Daily Caller News Foundation spoke with Wood on Thursday to learn more.


The case stems from a 2011 effort by New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie to legalize sports gambling at New Jersey casinos and race tracks. Christie argued that legalization would generate millions in tax dollars for the Garden State.

America’s professional sports leagues, the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL, along with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which regulates collegiate sports in the U.S., sued Christie and the state of New Jersey in an effort to keep the law from going into effect.

The leagues, along with the NCAA — long averse to the legalization of sports gambling — argued that Christie’s efforts violated the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), which prohibits government entities from sponsoring, operating, advertising, promoting, licensing or authorizing (by law or compact) a sports betting, gambling or wagering scheme.

The state of New Jersey asserts that PASPA actually violates the “anti-commandeering” doctrine under the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits the federal government from “commandeering” state governments. The doctrine prohibits Congress from compelling a state government to adopt a regulatory regime that the federal government has not itself imposed.

The pro leagues, along with the NCAA and the U.S. Department of Justice disagree with New Jersey’s assertion that PASPA violates the 10th Amendment, arguing the Act does not actually obligate the state to take up any particular regulatory regime, rather it only blocks the state from legalizing sports gambling.

The argument is essentially that PAPSA does not “commandeer” state governments because it does not compel the state to take any action, therefore it does not violate the 10th Amendment’s anti-commandeering doctrine.

The Supreme Court will hear the case after a lower court (the Third Circuit) ruled in favor of the Justice Department and the sports leagues. The ideological composition of the court gives proponents of sports gambling great hope that the highest court in the land will rule in their favor.

Sports leagues, for their part, have started to come around to the idea of legalization of sports gambling. Major League Baseball’s commissioner,Rob Manfred, recently hinted that the league may be shifting its stance on gambling.

Manfred, in words that mirrored messaging from the NBA and the NFL, said that gambling happens, whether it’s legal or not, and that leagues must be realistic about the future.

“Sports betting happens,” Manfred said earlier this year. “Whether it’s legalized here or not, it’s happening out there.”

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