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Legal Sports Report

Likely Solicitor General Charles Cooper Could Be Boon For New Jersey Sports Betting Case

Charles Cooper Solicitor General
The incoming US Solicitor General is poised to have a major impact on the possibility of legalized sports betting in the US. Now we know who that person is likely to be.

The likely SG and sports betting

Yahoo News reported that attorney Charles Cooper is likely to get the nod for one of the top posts in the Department of Justice. He once worked for the White House Office of Legal Counsel under President Ronald Reagan. He also clerked for former Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist.

The solicitor general position matters a great deal to the state of New Jersey in its ongoing case to offer legal sports betting within its borders.

The state has twice tried to pass laws regarding sports betting. Those efforts have been met with defeat after defeat in federal court. Now, the NJ sports betting case is being appealed to the US Supreme Court.

The latest development in that case? SCOTUS asked the SG’s office to weigh in with the federal government’s take on the case. That matter will fall to Cooper, if he indeed becomes the next solicitor general.

What might Cooper say on sports betting?

We certainly don’t know what Cooper will say about the sports betting case. But we do know a bit about Cooper.

First, the NJ argument on sports betting

Here’s what we do know. New Jersey’s argument boils down to PASPA — the federal law that prohibits single-game wagering outside of Nevada — is an overreach by the US government.

The state argues that PASPA usurps states’ rights in violating of the “anti-commandeering doctrine,” by forcing it to deal with sports betting by either prohibiting it or allowing it to go on in an entirely unregulated fashion.

This is argument that five state attorneys general agree with in filing an amicus brief with SCOTUS.

So, it follows, a states’ rights advocate would be more likely to side with New Jersey than not.

Cooper, at a glance

Cooper is a conservative, who appears to be the choice of incoming Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He also appears to be a champion of states’ rights:

Several years ago, Cooper wrote an essay about the Tenth Amendment, the so-called “states rights’ amendment:

Even if modern developments permit (or require) expansion of congressional authority well beyond its eighteenth-century limits, such expansion cannot extinguish the “retained” role of the states as limited but independent sovereigns.

The Tenth Amendment thus may function as a sort of “fail-safe” mechanism: Congress has broad power to regulate, and even to subject states to generally applicable federal laws, but the power ends when it reaches too far into the retained dominion of state autonomy.

At the same time, he has also championed conservative causes, including a proposition in California that would have banned gay marriage. So what kind of predisposition he would have toward something that would expand gambling in the US is a variable.

Finally, there’s the fact that the lawyer representing New Jersey has a connection to Cooper. More from Yahoo:

Ted Olson, the conservative Washington lawyer who argued for same-sex marriage two years ago, told Yahoo News he believes Cooper would be a “very, very good” solicitor general. Olson, who did not know whether Cooper had received the nomination, has known Cooper since they both worked in the Reagan administration in the 1980s.

If Cooper says SCOTUS should hear the sports betting case…

We already know that the mere involvement of the SG in an appeal results in increased odds of the Supreme Court hearing the case.

If the SG were to take New Jersey’s side on this case, it would almost certainly mean that the case is headed to the nation’s highest court and oral argument. And that’s the latest good news as legal sports betting in the US tries to pick up more momentum.

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Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.