New Jersey’s long and winding road to be allowed to offer sports betting to its citizens heads to the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday morning in Washington, D.C.
The case is being watched closely by the gambling industry and by all those who love to wager on games. A victory by New Jersey would be seen as significant step toward legalizing sports betting nationally.
This decade began with a referendum put on the New Jersey ballot in 2011 that passed and was signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie in 2012. The state’s racetracks moved toward offering wagering on that fall’s football season, however, our nation’s pro sports leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL) and the NCAA received an injunction to keep the state’s racetracks from offering sports betting, which was ruled to be in violation of 1992’s Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). When that law was passed – which allowed states with sports betting to be grandfathered in, which is why Delaware and Oregon have had parlay-type wagering in addition to Nevada which is unrestricted in its offerings – New Jersey was given a one-year window to implement sports betting but didn’t due to the efforts of then-Sen. and former pro basketball player Bill Bradley.
New Jersey has lost a series of appeals in the lower courts and was turned down by the U.S. Supreme Court last year but then the Court had a change of heart this past spring and agreed to hear the case.
The leagues – represented by attorney Paul Clement and with the support of the Trump administration – will argue that the expansion of sports betting is a threat to the integrity of their games. New Jersey, led by attorney Ted Olson, will argue that sports betting in a regulated environment actually ensures the integrity of the games (as bookies as the ones most hurt if there’s a fix). But the state’s case is actually about more than sports betting – and the reason why many believe it will get PASPA overturned as unconstitutional – as this is really a battle over states' rights and federalism.
The 10th Ammendment to the Constitution states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” New Jersey’s argument is that its unconstitutional for the U.S. government to not allow states to decide if they want to allow sports betting within its borders.
Eighteen states have signed an amicus brief in support of New Jersey, but while many are hoping to legalize sports betting themselves, others – such as Texas, as a prominent example – is behind Jersey for the states' right issue but has no plans so far to also jump in the pool.
The Court is not expected to release its decision until the spring, possibly as late as June.
Stayed tuned to VSiN’s broadcasts Monday. We’ll have updates as well as coverage here on VSiN.com.