Freedom doesn’t come cheap.
Earlier this month, online publication Observer reported that New Jersey had spent $8.6 million in legal fees during its sports betting appeal. The state is asking the US Supreme Court for the freedom to create and enact their own laws regarding sports betting.
Those fees have accumulated since 2012 when then-Gov. Chris Christie hired private law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher to take up the case in circuit court and eventually before the Supreme Court.
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher billed most of the $8.6 million, with one other firm, Gibbons P.C., billing about $1.5 million, the Observer reported.
The costs, however, are all part of a yearslong effort to bring Las Vegas-style sports betting to New Jersey casinos and racetracks.
The saga on NJ sports betting could end soon
The NJ sports betting narrative began in 2011 when citizens voted to amend the state’s constitution and allow sports betting.
Christie tried twice to sign an NJ sports betting bill into law and twice the NCAA and professional sports leagues put up a fight.
Under the current Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, such a move wasn’t allowed under law. PASPA, as the law is known, stopped new states from legalizing sports betting, effectively stripping the power of the states to decide the issue on their own.
Congress passed PASPA in 1992, and the law went into effect in 1993. State’s had a one-year window to pass sports betting laws. But at the time, the general public was in favor of a sports betting ban. Nevada and a few other states that already had sports betting laws in the books were exempt from PASPA.
The case currently before the Supreme Court is the third and, hopefully, final time that New Jersey has taken their state law to the federal court system.
The common opinion among experts is that the court will decide the case sometime this month or next month.
The tide is turning in favor of sports betting
Over the past few months, nearly 20 states have moved sports betting through their respective legislatures. It’s been tough sledding, though; West Virginia was the only state to turn a bill into law in 2018 so far. Pennsylvania’s online gambling law in 2017 included a provision for sports betting.
Technically, the laws are not yet legal. Should the Supreme Court void PASPA, then West Virginia and Pennsylvania can join New Jersey in offering legal sports betting almost immediately.
And there seems to be an indication that the tide is turning in favor of sports betting across the country. A 2017 survey from Gallup/CNN/USA Today poll indicated that, for the first time in polling history since 1992, the general public supports sports betting.
“A 55-percent majority approve of legalizing betting on pro sporting events, a flip from almost a quarter-century ago, when a federal law went into effect banning the practice in most of the country and 56 percent of Americans disapproved of legalization,” a Washington Post article stated.