As New Jersey sports gambling backers nervously await news of whether the United States Supreme Court will hear the state’s appeal on sports betting, legal representative Ted Olson sent a letter to the highest court in the land.
Olson’s pointed letter comes in the wake of a potentially crippling blow to New Jersey’s chances. In late May, Solicitor General Jeffrey B. Wall recommended, on behalf of the Department of Justice, that SCOTUS ignore the case.
In his letter, Olson argues there’s nothing about the federal government’s prior decisions that prohibits New Jersey — or any other state in which sports gambling isn’t legal — from asking for a repeal of the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).
Letter could signal a last stand for NJ sports betting case
What chance does New Jersey’s appeal have at this point? Well, that depends on how one views the solicitor general’s recommendation and SCOTUS’ request for his opinion.
When SCOTUS is deciding whether it will hear a case, it will occasionally ask for the solicitor general’s opinion on a matter in which the federal government is directly involved. This formal request for an opinion can be a positive sign indicating SCOTUS is deliberating. This as opposed to handing down an outright, decisive rejection.
According to a 2009 analysis by David C. Thompson and Melanie F. Wachtel, such a call is a good sign for plaintiffs. They found SCOTUS is 37 times more likely to hear the case.
This historical data also shows that four out of five times SCOTUS sides with the solicitor general’s opinion. This means that Wall telling the court to deny NJ’s request leaves a 20.4 percent chance of SCOTUS hearing the appeal.
Solicitor general left a loophole
While a betting person would be unlikely to put money on the state after Wall’s recommendation, the Washington Post’s Will Hobson pointed out a loophole:
“Unlike New Jersey’s prior attempts to get around the federal law, which focused on limiting sports gambling to casinos and racetracks, a full repeal would remove all the state’s laws against sports betting, effectively allowing neighborhood sports bookies to take bets without fear of local or state law enforcement.
This would be a legal strategy similar to how Colorado allowed recreational marijuana by repealing its state laws against the drug, leaving it up to federal law enforcement agencies to decide if they wanted to intervene.”
SCOTUS will announce its decision to hear the case before month’s end.
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