The US Supreme Court will hear arguments December 4 on whether New Jersey should be able to legalize sports betting. The case will test whether the Constitution allows Congress to prohibit something in some states that is legal in other states.
Congress banned sports betting outside Nevada in states that did not legalize it before 1993.
That case pits Governor Chris Christie and the state’s Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association against the NCAA and professional sports leagues. If the state prevails, it would open the door to state racetracks and Atlantic City casinos being able to offer Las Vegas-style bets on professional and amateur sports events.
The court decided in June it would take the case, which signaled that the arguments over federalism that New Jersey had raised with little success in lower courts were receiving a better reception on the nation’s highest court.
If the court were to decide the 25-year-old Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act is is unconstitutional, any state could legalize sports betting. New Jersey voters overwhelmingly legalized sports betting in the 2012 election, but the state was immediately sued by sports leagues, which won decisions twice before the court of appeals, albeit by divided 2-1 decisions.
The 1992 federal law was sponsored by Bill Bradley, a US senator from New Jersey who two decades earlier was a New York Knicks basketball star. It was unusual in that the law outlawed an activity nationwide yet “grandfathered” Nevada.
Delaware, Oregon and Montana also were granted the option of offering limited sports betting of the sort that those states had previously. Delaware, for instance, now allows NFL fans “parlay betting” — the results of three or more games are predicted, with payouts of relatively long odds offered if the fan makes every pick correctly.