Thursday was an important day for the future of sports betting in New Jersey and the rest of the United States. But we won’t know what happened until Monday.
The US Supreme Court justices met on Thursday to consider a number of cases for a possible appeal. Among them was Christie vs. NCAA et al — better known as the NJ sports betting case.
What SCOTUS did, and will do, on NJ sports betting
SCOTUS held a conference on Thursday. One topic was whether to hear the appeal in the ongoing federal case involving sports betting and the state of New Jersey (represented by Gov. Chris Christie in the name of the case).
New Jersey is arguing that it should be able to allow sports betting within its borders, something a federal law — PASPA — prohibits (at least according to court rulings so far.) The state is arguing that PASPA is unconstitutional and violates the Tenth Amendment (states’ rights). The plaintiffs — the NCAA, NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL — have fought New Jersey in court to stop it from legalizing sports betting.
The result of the case will not be known until Monday morning. That’s when SCOTUS will announce which petitions it is granting and which it is denying. New Jersey will hope to be in the former category.
If that happens, the case lives on. More briefs will be filed, and eventually the case will have oral arguments in front of the court. If the majority of the court finds with New Jersey, in the scenario, there could be legal sports betting in the state next year.
If New Jersey’s petition isn’t granted…
…It’s back to the drawing board
A denial would mean the current case is over. That means no New Jersey sports betting any time soon.
So far, New Jersey has lost in every federal court in which the case has been heard, over the course of two different laws that the state passed on sports betting. The US Solicitor General — asked to weigh in on the case by SCOTUS — recommended that the court pass on hearing the appeal.
That was a blow to New Jersey’s hopes in the case. Despite that, SCOTUS even asking for the opinion of the SG improves the odds of a petition being granted.
If the appeal doesn’t happen, New Jersey has options:
- Try for a third time to do a partial repeal of its law on sports betting. That’s something that obviously hasn’t worked to date. Such a bill was already introduced at the end of 2016.
- The so-called “nuclear option,” in which the state does a full repeal of its sports betting law. That would mean almost anyone in the state — not just casinos and racetracks — could offer sports betting.
- Lobby Congress for a change to federal law.
- Pass a law — or use existing law — to offer sports betting-esque products under the guise of “daily fantasy sports.” (This is already underway.)
- Do nothing at all.
If New Jersey happens to win…
Let’s start here: If the petition is granted on Monday, things still have to break well for New Jersey to win.
But if it does come out victorious, it would instantly change the landscape for US sports betting.
More states would immediately try to pass laws legalizing sports betting. A decision for NJ likely creates momentum for Congress to revisit gambling laws like PASPA, the Wire Act and the UIGEA.
How likely is that scenario? Perhaps not very likely. But first things first: It needs SCOTUS to grant the appeal. If that doesn’t happen, it’s back to square one on sports betting for the time being.