The U.S. Supreme Court has indicated that it may support New Jersey’s position of making sports gambling legal in the country.
The Supreme Court Justices recently heard New Jersey’s challenge of a federal law that bans states from permitting gambling in most professional and college level sports.
The lawsuit filed by New Jersey and other states pits them against the federal government, the NCAA and all major sports leagues.
The revenue potential of sports betting makes it high stakes for the states. According to the American Gaming Association, Americans are spending about $150bn on illegal wagers on sports events per year.
If the court deems the law unconstitutional, then 32 states are likely to make gambling legal according to a California research firm’s report.
Sports Wagers Hurts Integrity Of The Game
The sports leagues like NBA, NHL, NFL, and MLB hold that striking down the law would impact the integrity of the games. However a few of the leagues’ heads have recently expressed an openness to consider legalization of sports gambling.
The federal law bans sports gambling across the US except in Nevada, Oregon, Montana, and Delaware, states where sports betting was already in force at that time.
Over a dozen states have joined New Jersey in the lawsuit, and are arguing that the federal government was exceeding its authority when it passed a law in 1992 prohibiting states from legalizing sports betting.
Congress Seems To be “Compelling” States
According to New Jersey, the U.S. constitution allows Congress to prohibit wagering on sports but it cannot make the states retain the prohibition.
Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan ‘s position seemed to suggest that U.S. Congress’ action was valid but others seem to be in support of New Jersey.
Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that the law seemed to be “commandeering,” or demanding the state. Some other judges indicated that they would like to avoid striking down the prevailing law even if they agreed with New Jersey. Justice Neil Gorsuch informed Ted Olson, an attorney appearing for New Jersey, that the court usually interprets statutes in such a manner as to avoid “constitutional questions”.
A Long Battle By New Jersey
New Jersey governor Chris Christie was in courtroom while the case was heard. His government has spent millions in legal fees in an attempt to legalize sports betting.
After voters supported legalization of sports betting in 2012, state lawmakers passed a law that allowed sports betting across the state’s gaming venues like casinos. The law was subsequently challenged in courts by the NCAA and professional sports leagues, which they won. Yet another attempt by the state in 2014 to introduce sports betting was also defeated in court.
The Supreme Court is expected to decide on the matter by late June.