WASHINGTON — On Monday at the United State Supreme Court, the State of New Jersey and the major professional sports leagues appeared before the high court to debate the constitutionality of a federal law that bans sports betting outside Nevada.
Congress passed the law known as PASPA in 1992 (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act), around the time that Pete Rose was banned from baseball for betting on games, when the general public was less approving of sports betting. This was also before fantasy football and March Madness pools became widespread.
(Note: for a somewhat more technical article about the arguments and the Justices’ questions, please go here.)
The Takeaway From Oral Argument in Christie v NCAA — the Supreme Court Sports Betting Case
The case has huge implications for sports betting in the U.S., but the case isn’t really about sports betting: The debate is about the federal government’s ability to regulate the states. (The official case name is Christie v NCAA.)
New Jersey argues that the federal law forces the state to enforce the federal ban on sports betting, even against the will of its New Jersey residents.
The sports leagues have backed PASPA because of concern for the “integrity of the games.” However, that argument has become pretty murky with an NHL team (the Golden Knights) now located in Las Vegas and an NFL team headed there (the Raiders).
But that didn’t matter much during oral arguments this morning as the lawyer for the leagues argued that PASPA is totally permissible and the type of law that Congress can and regularly does pass.
The Justices seemed much more skeptical of the Leagues’ argument than New Jersey’s. Both attorneys had to answer a lot of questions, but the Justices as a whole appeared most uneasy about the way PASPA works, and how it impacts states. In other words, they didn’t seem to buy the justification for enforcing the law and banning sports betting.
It sounds as if the Justices generally agree with New Jersey that if Congress wanted to ban sports betting, it should have done it directly and clearly. For this reason, I believe the Court will ultimately issue a decision in which a majority of justices rule PASPA unconstitutional. The decision is expected in April, give or take a month.
As a result, sports betting may soon become legal in New Jersey and a host of other states preparing to legalize sports betting.