The US Supreme Court has decided to hear New Jersey’s challenge of the federal ban on sports betting.

The Supreme Court agreed earlier this week to hear the state’s petition to legalize sports wagering within its borders. This comes even after advice from the Acting US Solicitor General last month suggesting it should not.

New Jersey and the federal sports betting ban

New Jersey lawmakers first passed a bill in 2011 legalizing sports betting at racetracks and Atlantic City casinos. But before any bets were placed, major sports leagues including the National Football League, National Basketball Association, and Major League Baseball filed suit.

The leagues were successful in having the law struck down. The state appealed to the Third Circuit Court and the decision was affirmed.

New Jersey passed another sports betting law in 2014 and lost again in district court. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that decision as well. The state appealed that decision and lost again before asking the US Supreme Court to hear the case.

The US Solicitor General was asked to provide a brief asking the US Supreme Court to hear the case. However, Acting US Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall recommended instead the court not take up the case.

Two new fronts emerge

The state was awaiting word from the US Supreme Court. But in the meantime, New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. released a draft of a bill last month calling for the repeal of the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).

This is the law that makes traditional sports betting illegal everywhere except Nevada, NFL parlay sports betting in Delaware, and game square wagering in Montana.

Pallone’s bill would authorize states to legalize sports betting and also clarify states’ ability to legalize online gambling.

The American Gaming Association (AGA) also launched a new campaign aimed at ending the federal ban on sports betting. Its newly formed American Sports Betting Coalition is also pushing to get PASPA repealed.

What happens for NJ sports betting at the Supreme Court level?

Back on the sports betting battle’s original front, New Jersey will now get more than its day in court. In fact, the Supreme Court will start accepting briefs on the case in August. Both the leagues and New Jersey will get a chance to respond and oral arguments could begin as early as the fall.

The case will be heard by the Supreme Court’s nine justices. New Jersey will have to convince five of them to side with it to overturn PASPA and end the federal ban on sports betting. The case isn’t likely to come to a conclusion until 2018.

The American Gaming Association responds

The AGA remains hopeful this is the beginning of the end for PASPA.

“The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 has failed to protect sports and fans,” read an AGA statement released after the Supreme Court announced it would hear New Jersey’s case.

The release continued:

“PASPA, which is approaching its 25th anniversary, is fueling an unregulated $150 billion illegal gambling market that continues to deprive states of vital public funding for services such as law enforcement and infrastructure.

“We are pleased the Supreme Court appears to have responded favorably to our arguments as to why they should hear this important case. And we are hopeful their engagement will provide further encouragement for Congress to take the steps necessary to create a regulated sports betting marketplace in the United States.

“The gaming industry, and the American Sports Betting Coalition, is committed to working with all relevant stakeholders to build a system that protects states’ rights, fans and the integrity of sports.”

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In his over 10 years covering the US online poker, legal NJ online gambling, and land-based casino industries, Martin Derbyshire has worn the hats of award-winning journalist and video and film producer. He has logged countless miles reporting on the world of high stakes gambling.