Coming Months Will Be Crucial In NJ Attempt To Legalize Sports Betting
Legal Sports Report

New Jersey Sports Betting End Game? Supreme Court Could Decide To Hear Appeal By Summer

SCOTUS NJ sports betting
Action is apparently around the corner for the New Jersey sports betting case, according to a report from ESPN.

What’s next for NJ sports betting?

New Jersey is currently appealing its case to legalize sports betting to the US Supreme Court. So far, its efforts have been shot down in the federal court system since the state passed the first of two laws back in 2012.

The timeline of SCOTUS dealing with the case has been fuzzy until now. But ESPN’s David Purdum reported that the legal machinery is once again whirring on the case.

Purdum also reported that the US Solicitor General has invited relevant parties to a meeting that will take place on Monday.

The tone of that meeting, and the ensuing brief from the SG’s office, will have a major impact on whether SCOTUS hears the appeal at all. The case will not be resolved by June — that’s just when SCOTUS will decide whether the appeal moves forward.

The Solicitor General’s role in the sports betting case

In January, SCOTUS asked for the solicitor general to file a brief stating the office’s opinion if the NJ case should be heard.

If the solicitor general files a brief saying the Court should hear the case, we know that New Jersey’s chances of getting an appeal likely improve dramatically.

Attorney Noel Francisco has been nominated as the new SG under President Donald Trump, but it appears he will not take office in time to impact the case. The acting SG — Jeffrey Wall — currently holds down the office. He took office in March.

What happens if SCOTUS hears the NJ sports betting case?

If SCOTUS agrees to take the appeal, the case will likely be heard some time in the next year. If the appeal is granted, SCOTUS would put oral arguments between the parties on the calendar at some point.

On one side is the state of New Jersey. On the other is the plaintiffs — the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and NCAA — who oppose NJ legalizing sports betting.

The action on the case comes as some of those leagues have moved toward support of legal, regulated sports betting in the US.

If New Jersey were to somehow win the case, it would mark a sea change for sports betting in the US, which is illegal pretty much everywhere outside of Nevada. A verdict in New Jersey’s favor could conceivably lead to other states following in New Jersey’s footsteps.

What happens if SCOTUS doesn’t hear the NJ sports betting case?

If the appeal is denied, then New Jersey heads back to the drawing board. The federal sports betting ban — PASPA — would persist. Some NJ lawmakers have suggested they would attempt to pass a law for a third time, with different language. How much traction such an effort would have is unknown, as the previous attempts have obviously not been met with success.

A more likely path forward for legal sports betting might be through a different state passing a New Jersey-style law. That would result in a legal challenge to PASPA in another circuit court. (New Jersey has been turned back in the Third Circuit, to date.)

West Virginia and Michigan are among the states that have flirted with the idea of challenging federal law. But, so far, no other state has come very close to joining New Jersey.

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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.