[toc]It was undoubtedly a big week for sports betting in the nation’s capital and New Jersey.
First, the state argued its case in front of the US Supreme Court to allow sports betting within its borders, and possibly to strike down the federal ban on sports wagering. Then, a new bill surfaced in Congress that would allow states to legalize and regulate sports wagering.
Here’s a look at what went down:
NJ sports betting and the Supreme Court
Christie vs. NCAA — the case about New Jersey’s sports betting law — saw oral arguments take place in the nation’s highest court.
On one side is Gov. Chris Christie, who signed into existence the law that partially repealed NJ’s own sports betting prohibition. He did so in the hopes of having legal sports betting at Atlantic City casinos and the state’s horse racing tracks.
On the other are the professional and amateur sports organizations — the NCAA, NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB — who argue NJ’s action is illegal under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. PASPA is the law that bans single-game sports wagering outside of Nevada.
New Jersey had lost throughout the case in the lower federal courts, and an appeal to the Supreme Court appeared to be a longshot. But the court agreed to hear the case this summer.
What went down at oral arguments
So what exactly happened? The court date was an hour of questions and answers between the court’s nine justices and the lawyers for the two sides. The lawyers for the two sides — Ted Olson for NJ and Paul Clement for the leagues — were poked and prodded by the justices, and we got our first read on what they think about the case.
Many of them seemed to be sympathetic to New Jersey’s argument that PASPA is unconstitutional, in that it forces states to keep laws on the books that they don’t necessarily want. That’s called “commandeering,” in constitutional terms.
After oral arguments took place, a majority of the justices seem poised to side with New Jersey and strike down PASPA. But that’s just an educated guess from listening to oral arguments. A decision isn’t expected until some time in 2018.
If NJ wins and PASPA is struck down, that also means other states could potentially start legalizing sports wagering, something states like Pennsylvania and New York have already done.
Sports betting bill in Congress?
The same day as the SCOTUS hearing, Congressman Frank Pallone (D – NJ) introduced his latest attempt to change the nation’s sports betting prohibition via Congress.
His bill — the GAME Act — would reform a number of the nation’s gaming laws. But chief among the legislation’s provisions would be a full repeal of PASPA.
If his bill were to pass, it would negate the need for the Supreme Court to rule against the law. But if New Jersey were to lose in the Supreme Court — still a very real possibility — sports betting could only happen in NJ and beyond if PASPA comes off the books.
So Pallone’s bill is a backup plan for a New Jersey loss. Also, it’s not clear a gaming bill could make its way through Congress in the current environment. It’s also an election year for the House in 2018, making it even trickier, politically.
Regardless, the momentum for New Jersey sports betting is picking up. And both the case and the bill offer the possibility that residents and visitors to the state can place sports wagers, perhaps as soon as 2018.