New Jersey Supreme Court Case Made Simple

Most sports bettors are somewhat familiar with the upcoming Supreme Court case regarding sports betting in New Jersey. While some may call it the case to legalize sports betting, that isn’t entirely true. If New Jersey wins, the state will have the ability to legalize sports betting. So will every other state, much like how certain states have legalized small amounts of marijuana. Not all of them have, although they do have the option, which is what New Jersey is fighting for.

Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992

The obstacle standing in the way of states being allowed to offer sports betting is the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which is usually just called PAPSA. The act prohibits states from offering new forms of sports betting that weren’t in place when the bill was passed. That’s why Nevada is able to offer single-game wagering and Delaware is forced to offer parlay wagering on football games.

There are several things wrong with PAPSA, which have been brought up in lower courts and the United States Supreme Court must agree to an extent to agree to hear the case.

Equal Sovereignty                                                                                                               The principle of equal sovereignty says that all states have to be treated equal. Those in favor of New Jersey argue for the government to say Nevada can offer a full range of sports betting and New Jersey cannot violates that principle.

Anti-Commandeering                                                                                                             The anti-commandeering argument basically states that federal government is “commandeering” the laws of a state by not letting the individual states decide their own gambling laws.

“Congress may give states a choice of regulating to federal standards or ceding the issue to federal control,” the Pacific Legal Foundation wrote in a ‘friends of the Court’ brief. “But Congress cannot deny states that choice and simply dictate what their own laws shall be.”

While there are several other matters, such as the right of Congress to pass laws that benefit a private entity, such as the NCAA or the professional sports leagues, the equal sovereignty/anti-commandeering arguments are the two most likely to catch the attention of the court. Clearly, the decision will affect much more than just sports betting, as the rights of states are at the forefront of the case.

About the only thing that is certain is that case has often yielded unexpected results. After the solicitor general recommended that the Supreme Court not hear the case, the Supreme Court went against his recommendation and put the case on their docket.

Now, a fair number of people believe that New Jersey will win the case, but being the favorite in Christie vs. NCAA hasn’t always been the best position to be in.

What Supreme Court Decision Means For Sports Betting

The United States Supreme Court surprised a lot of people when they agreed to hear New Jersey’s appeal of a lower court ruling that prevented the state from offering legalized sports betting. At the heart of the matter is PAPSA, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 that prohibited states from offering new forms of sports-related betting activities. If they allowed something when the bill was passed, they could continue to do so. That’s why Nevada is still able to offer a full variety of sports betting.

Even if the Supreme Court rules in favor of New Jersey, that does not mean sports betting will be legal in the United States. What it means is that states will have the right to offer sports betting if they choose to do so. Not all states will. For sports betting to be declared legal in the United States, it would take an act of Congress or federal statute and that isn’t what New Jersey’s lawsuit is all about.

On the merits of their case, New Jersey has a good chance of coming out with a victory. The Constitution was designed to keep the federal government out of the affairs of individual states as much as possible. So when the federal government tells one state you can’t offer sports betting, while letting another state do so, there are going to be problems. Remember, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case even after the Solicitor General’s Office said he didn’t believe they should. Obviously, there are at least several members of the Court who have an interest in the matter.

The leagues and the NCAA will continue to argue irreparable harm and challenges to their integrity if sports betting is allowed, but they are quickly losing ground in that area. With the NHL and NFL moving teams to Las Vegas, the stigma of gambling as harmful to athletics is making less sense.

The leagues and the NCAA aren’t made up of dumb people. They know betting is taking place and will continue into the future regardless of what happens in court. More, such as the NBA’s Adam Silver are in favor of legalized, regulated sports betting. People in the U.S. are going to be able to wager on sports legally sometime in the near future. It is no longer really a question of if, but more a question of when. The Supreme Court may answer that question shortly.