I live just a few miles from legal sports gambling in Nevada, so sometimes it’s hard to fathom that there are vast tracks of American soil in which it’s not allowed to place a few sawbucks on the Packers to win the Super Bowl. Or whatever lost cause you’re into.
Of course people do it anyway — for instance, of the $10.4 billion bet on March Madness games this year across the U.S., only an estimated $295 million of it was done legally. Nevada and a handful of other states have held a monopoly in legal sports betting since the days of Bugsy Siegel, but New Jersey and Governor Chris Christie now want in on the action.
The Supreme Court today announced that it would hear New Jersey’s appeal on legalized sports betting in the state. That’s an upset, because the lower courts have ruled against sports gambling in New Jersey time and again since it first came up in 2011. And the U.S. Solicitor General’s opinion was that the latest case was not worthy of review.
But at least four justices disagreed, which doesn’t mean that Jersey is going to win, but it will at least get its day in the Big Court. That won’t happen for about a year, of course, but hope springs eternal in the Garden State.
Christie of course wants sports gambling to boost his state’s lagging economy, specifically the casino industry. Nucky Thompson approves.
But the five major sports leagues are against it. The NCAA, NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball sued Christie in 2012 to keep his ink-stained gambling mitts out of their houses. ESPN:
In November 2011, New Jersey voters passed a statewide referendum by nearly a 2-1 margin in support of legal sports betting throughout the state. Christie signed follow-up legislation in January 2012, and that spring, New Jersey gaming officials put forth regulations for state-sponsored sportsbooks. Soon thereafter, the NCAA, NBA, NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball sued to stop New Jersey under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), a federal law that restricts legal sports betting to Nevada and a small number of other states. New Jersey had lost every step of the way in this legal battle and was considered an underdog to have its case heard by the SCOTUS.
But apparently some justices feel that the sports betting landscape has changed so much over the past five years that the case needs another look. The NFL and NHL are in Las Vegas now, after all — something that would have been unthinkable five years ago.
And is anyone still pretending that sports betting isn’t the main propellant for the NFL? Aside from straight betting on games, Fantasy Sports is what’s helping to keep it the most popular U.S. sport. It just seems that legal sports betting is the thing of the future, and we’re pushing against the rising water in trying to keep it out.
So oral arguments will likely begin later this year, and there will be briefs … oh yes, many, many briefs. A final ruling probably won’t come until August, 2018.
In the event that the SCOTUS rules in favor of New Jersey, that would be the rock that broke the beaver’s dam. Connecticut, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and West Virginia have sports betting legislation all ready to go.
New Jersey has already beaten the odds — the Supreme Court historically has granted appeal review in only about two percent of cases.