New Jersey Sports Betting Case Nears Its Endgame
Legal Sports Report

As Next Step On NJ Sports Betting Supreme Court Appeal Looms, Congressman Calls For Action

Rep. Frank Pallone isn’t giving up in the case for legal sports betting in New Jersey.

As first reported by ESPN, the Democratic Congressman penned a letter to the office of the US Solicitor General. In the letter, he asked the acting SG, Jeff Wall, to tell the US Supreme Court to take up the NJ sports betting case. Later, the Congressman’s office released the full letter.

In the ongoing federal case, New Jersey is trying to legalize sports betting. The major professional sports leagues and the NCAA have thus far stopped that from happening via the federal prohibition on single-game sports wagering, PASPA. SCOTUS had asked the SG’s office to weigh in on the case earlier this year.

A brief from the SG on whether SCOTUS should take up the case likely will come this month. SCOTUS could then decide whether to take up the appeal as soon as June.

Pallone acts on NJ sports betting

There’s no shortage of intrigue in Congress as lawmakers keep an eye on the shenanigans involving President Donald Trump. That includes Pallone, who was tweeting this morning about a story of the president allegedly giving classified information to Russia:

But still, business in the federal government continues on a variety of fronts, and that includes issues like sports betting. That has been one of Pallone’s signature issues in recent years, as he has helped fight for his home state to be allowed to offer sports betting.

Pallone lays out the case

More from a press release from Pallone:

“This case is about whether the Third Circuit accorded sufficient room to the State of New Jersey to effectuate the will of its citizens under New Jersey’s state Constitution, laws, and sovereign powers under the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” Pallone wrote.  “Without the Supreme court’s review and a decision on this appeal, these areas of disagreement and conflict will inevitably grow and lead to more confusion.  After all, the question of how a state authorizes sports gambling by law or compact without violating PASPA remains extremely hazy.”

Pallone wrote that New Jersey and other Petitioners have argued all along that PASPA is unlawful on its face, for impermissibly ordering the State of New Jersey not to permit sports gambling in accordance with the New Jersey Constitution and its State laws. 

“New Jersey should have the same opportunity to proceed with sports betting that has been allowed in other states,” Pallone wrote.  “The Third Circuit’s decisions have usurped the power of New Jerseyans and the State of New Jersey to share in the considerable profits from sports betting.”

Despite being illegal in most states, traditional and internet sports betting is widespread, and functions almost exclusively through organized crime. Of the nearly $400 billion that is spent annually in the U.S. on sports betting, 99 percent is illegal.

What’s Pallone’s letter mean for SCOTUS?

Probably not much. The letter is not likely to tip the scales on the acting SG’s recommendation on the NJ sports betting case.

The letter is a public relations opportunity for Pallone to attempt to gain momentum for sports betting. Earlier this spring, he used the NFL’s move of a franchise to Las Vegas to make his case for legal sports betting in New Jersey and beyond.

So while Pallone writing the letter is noteworthy, it likely has no impact on the bottom line of the case. But continuing the narrative that the federal sports betting ban 1. goes against states rights and 2. has been ineffective is a necessary step toward altering or repealing PASPA, short of a Supreme Court decision.

What does happen next for NJ sports betting?

If the solicitor general recommends that SCOTUS takes up the case, we’re much more likely to see the case proceed. Even without the SG’s recommendation, there is still a chance the nation’s highest court will hear the appeal.

If SCOTUS doesn’t grant the appeal, however, the case would be dead. The state legislature would have to go back to the drawing board in another attempt to alter its laws relating to sports betting (for a third time). The will for such action to occur is unknown.

New Jersey appears set to move ahead on other fronts, however, related to fantasy sports. A new product that blurs the line between sports betting and daily fantasy sports will be offered via a casino in Atlantic City.

Still, New Jersey would like to be able to offer single-game sports wagering. And the quickest path to do so, right now, is via a Supreme Court appeal.

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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.