US Supreme Court to Hear New Jersey Sports Betting Case
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to hear arguments in the New Jersey sports betting case. At heart of the case is New Jersey’s challenge of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992.
Arguments in the case begin in October, when the Supreme Court’s next court term commences. New Jersey’s lawyers will challenge the PASPA law, while lawyers for the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and NCAA defend the current federal sports gambling law.
The two sides have battled in federal courts for the past 5 years. Each time, the US sports associations have won the decision. New Jersey only needs one win to strike down the PASPA law, though.
US Supreme Court Reviews the PASPA
When the justices announced their decision, they gave no reason for why they agreed to hear the case. In June 2014, the same court rejected New Jersey’s appeal in a similar sports betting case.
In December 2017, the court delayed a ruling on the case, because they wanted to hear President-Elect Donald Trump’s opinions on the case. The Acting U.S. Solicitor General, Jeffrey B. Wall, called on justices to reject the appeal in a May 2017 opinion.
Jeffrey Wall argued that New Jersey’s latest plan to allow sports betting in the state “is no different than a positive enactment authorizing such gambling.” After a previous attempt to legalize and regulate sportsbooks failed in the courts, Chris Christie’s administration sought to repeal the regulations and look the other way while Monmouth Park and William Hill partnered on a sportsbook.
New Jersey Sports Betting Case
As Monmouth Park was days away from opening a sportsbook in October 2014, the NFL and its allies sued New Jersey and Monmouth Park. That led to three court battles, beginning in Judge Michael Shipp’s district court in Trenton. New Jersey lost the first decision, as Shipp viewed the case in much the same way Jeffrey Wall did.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeal voted 2-1 against New Jersey, upholding Judge Shipp’s decision. New Jersey appealed to the full list of appellate judges in the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, setting up an August 2016 case. The en-banc panel of judges voted 10-2 against New Jersey, leaving the Supreme Court as the last option.
Daniel Wallach on Legalized Sportsbooks
Daniel Wallach, a notable gaming lawyer out of Florida, said this could be the much-anticipated moment when legal sports gambling becomes a reality. Wallach told NJ.com, “This is a sea change in the whole movement surrounding sports betting in the U.S.”
Mr. Wallach added that access to the U.S. Supreme Court is the biggest obstacle in such cases, because only about 1% of all cases appealed to the Supreme Court receive a hearing by the justices. New Jersey’s case already has more standing than 99% of the cases appealed to the Supreme Court.
Wallach predicted, if the Supreme Court sided with New Jersey, sports betting could open in New Jersey casinos and racetracks by the summer of 2018. New Jersey gamblers could bet on NFL games legally as early as next season.
Ray Lesniak Predicts Victory
New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak, who led the fight for New Jersey sports betting for years, predicted his state would win the case. The veteran lawmaker witnessed all of New Jersey’s legal defeats over the years, but remains “very confident”.
Lesniak said, “I’ve been knocked down five or six times. You get a little groggy. But I never give up. And I expect to win.”
Joseph Kyrillos on States Rights
One reason the case has a better chance in the U.S. Supreme Court is the case touches on “states rights” issues. The Supreme Court’s has 5 conservative justices and 4 liberal justices, so states rights issues tend to gain advantage over federal oversight. Conservative and liberatarian figures like Sen. Rand Paul, former Rep. Ron Paul, and tax lobbyist Grover Norquist lent vocal support to New Jersey’s gambling cases against federal laws these past few years.
New Jersey State Sen. Joseph Kyrillos made the case succinctly for New Jersey sports betting on hearing of the Supreme Court decision. Speaking of issues like gambling, Kyrillos said, “These decisions should be made at the state level. That’s why this is an important case not only for New Jersey, but for every state in the nation.”
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