Legal NJ Sports Betting Would Help I-Gaming
New Jersey took another step in its fight to legalize sports betting. The state submitted its filings to the United States Supreme Court this week as it waits to present legal arguments to the Chief Justice and eight associate justices this fall.
The fight is important because it centers around the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), the national ban on sports betting by the federal government. At the core, the issue is the right of states to each determine their own laws pertaining to sports betting. And inherent in this argument is the notion of states’ rights pertaining to all types of gambling and wagering.
The outcome of the case could have an impact on future cases involving the Wire Act, Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), and other gambling issues that have long been in the middle of a tug-of-war battle between states and federal oversight.
New Jersey Filings
The New Jersey legislature, along with Governor Chris Christie and supported by a majority of the state’s voters, have been standing up for the right to legalize sports betting since they first finalized a law to do so in January 2012. Land-based casinos and racetracks would be able to apply for licenses to offer betting on amateur and professional sports events.
However, that same year, a group of major sports leagues, led by the NCAA, filed a lawsuit in the US District Court against Christie, alleging it violated PASPA. And the US Department of Justice took the side of the sports leagues. PASPA continued to be the law of the land controlling all states except Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana – the only exceptions allowed.
The court battles continued up the judicial ladder until the US Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. That announcement this summer put New Jersey on a path to defends its claims over its sports betting rights. While arguments won’t begin until the fall months, New Jersey did submit its filings with the Supreme Court this week, taking direct aim at PASPA.
New Jersey wrote: “To meet Congress’ objective of forestalling further legislation of sports wagering, PASPA directs states to maintain, in effect, their state-law prohibitions on the activity. Our constitutional structure does not permit Congress to regulate interstate commerce in that manner. Under our Constitution, if Congress wishes for sports wagering to be illegal, it must make the activity unlawful itself. It cannot compel states to do so.”
According to the Associated Press, the question before the Supreme Court is: Does a federal statute that prohibits modification or repeal of state-law prohibitions on private conduct impermissibly usurp the regulatory power of states?
The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the coming months and render a final decision in the spring of 2018.
Potential Benefits for Online Gambling
Pertaining to the question at hand for the Supreme Court, the legality of federal laws versus states’ rights regarding private conduct is at stake. That issue of states’ rights is also at the heart of online poker and casino games that states have already begun to legislate but some in Congress want to ban on the federal level. If supporters of an online gaming ban, like US Representatives Charlie Dent and Brian Fitzpatrick, succeed in their efforts to implement the ban or reverse the 2011 Department of Justice decision regarding the Wire Act, states’ right will be overridden by the federal government.
Should New Jersey win the right to legalize and regulate sports betting without the interference of PASPA, the trickle-down results could impact online gaming. It would prohibit – or at least set precedent against – anything like the Restoration of America’s Wire Act bill that has been spurred by the money and influence of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. The efforts to ban online gambling would be thwarted by the precedent that states should hold the ultimate power with regard to gambling decisions.
The future of online poker and internet casino gambling need a positive decision by the Supreme Court to succeed. A decision for PASPA, on the other hand, keeps the door open for RAWA and similar legislative proposals to not only outlaw those games but stop New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada in their tracks. Those states with legal online gaming of any sort will be forced to take their cases to court to defend their rights to offer said games, possibly even curbing those activities pending the outcome of potentially years-long court cases.
Online poker and gaming advocates are rightly focused on the New Jersey case at it is placed in the hands of nine Supreme Court justices who may decide the future of gambling in America. All eyes will be on the decision expected in the spring.
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