New Jersey continues its lucky streak in their ongoing sports betting case with the United States Supreme Court deciding to take on the case. This news is a saving grace for the state, as they have been fighting for the right to host sports betting for several years now. Sports betting advocates are under the impression that legalization may finally have a shot if SCOTUS rules in their favor.
Mention sports betting in the US and New Jersey is bound to come up. The state has played a sort of pioneer role in attempting to circumvent the status quo NJ began offering sports betting lines in their racetracks and casinos. That ‘status quo’ is the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or PASPA. PASPA is a federal ban on sports betting that outlaws the practice in 46 states, New Jersey included. Back in 2012, NJ tried to usher in a law that would allow the Garden State to offer sports betting, but that was quickly snuffed out by a lawsuit from the major sports leagues. 2014 saw another attempt, this time focusing on licensed gambling establishments. The state government sought to authorize sports betting in licensed venues. This sparked another lawsuit on the grounds that NJ was in violation of PASPA. The Garden State was denied sports betting yet again.
NJ state government began the appeals process through the lower courts, including the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Their argument was that PASPA infringed upon states’ Tenth Amendment rights. NJ lost their appeal and reached out to SCOTUS. Before deciding to hear the case, SCOTUS enlisted the help of the acting Solicitor General, who advised the high court to not even bother with the case. In a surprise move, SCOTUS went against the advice of the Solicitor General and granted New Jersey’s request for an appeal.
It is going to be a long time before any resolution is found with this case. Both parties (New Jersey and the major sports leagues) will have to enter into a long legal process including several different briefs and replies to those briefs. New Jersey has to address why they believe they should win the case. It is likely that the case will be formally heard sometime in the fall with a final ruling in 2018.
Many interested parties believe that New Jersey is a shoe-in for victory. The Supreme Court rarely grants requests for appeals. The fact that SCOTUS reached out to the Solicitor General is also a rarity and showcases the magnitude of the case. Perhaps the most interesting point is the fact that some of the major sports leagues involved with this case appear to be warming up to the idea of legal sports betting. The NFL and NHL are introducing franchises in Las Vegas, the US sports betting capital. The MLB and NBA have expressed interest in a legalized framework. Only the NCAA have held out firmly against the notion, but their hand could be forced with a ruling in favor of New Jersey.
This case has been counted out several times over and still manages to overcome each roadblock set before it. If New Jersey wins the case, many other states will likely follow suit and introduce sports betting legislation of their own. NJ has the potential to become the first state banned under PASPA to feature single-game sports betting lines, a truly historical feat.