US Supreme Court Says ‘Yes’ To New Jersey Sports Betting Appeal

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NJ sports betting

The New Jersey sports betting case is heading to Washington, D.C.

The US Supreme Court granted the state’s petition in its ongoing effort to legalize sports wagering within its borders on Tuesday morning. The court agrees to hear appeals in only a fraction of the cases that are brought before it.

The move bucked expectations, although those hopes had been raised after a delay on Monday.

Still, it’s just one step for New Jersey, which still has to convince the court that it is on the right side of the law.

Game on for NJ sports betting

The grant of an appeal by SCOTUS means the court will get its day in the nation’s highest court. NJ had made its case to the nation’s highest court last fall.

In the SCOTUS appeal, more briefs will be filed and eventually oral arguments will be held in front of the court’s nine justices. New Jersey would have to convince five of them to side with it against PASPA.

A resolution isn’t likely in the case until 2018.

You can see the order granting the petition here.

How did we get here?

The state has twice passed laws attempting to legalize sports betting, but those efforts have been turned back in federal court multiple times. The latest defeat came in the US Third Circuit Court of Appeals in front of an en banc panel of judges in August.

The SCOTUS appeal got a boost when the court asked the US Solicitor General to weigh in. But the SG’s office ultimately recommended that the Supreme Court not hear the appeal.

New Jersey has been fighting a federal law — PASPA — that prohibits single-game wagering. The plaintiffs in the federal case — the NCAA, NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL — have used PASPA to stop New Jersey from altering its law to allow sports betting.

It appears that the Supreme Court is concerned with the idea that PASPA could violate the constitution, via the Tenth Amendment. That amendment deals with states’ rights, and limits what the federal government can tell states to do with its own laws.

PASPA prevents states from altering their laws as it relates to sports betting, either forcing states other than Nevada to keep their prohibitions on it in place or entirely repeal their own laws in order to allow unregulated sports betting.

What happens next for New Jersey sports betting

What happens next now that New Jersey has persuaded the Supreme Court to hear the sports betting case? Sports law attorney Daniel Wallach wrote the timeline for Legal Sports Report:

The case essentially begins anew, as it advances from ‘cert stage’ to ‘merits stage.’ There will be new court filings (including a full briefing on the merits) and an oral argument before the nine Justices in Washington DC (perhaps even later this year). Here are the key actions and related deadlines:

Oral argument would likely be scheduled for the fall. The Supreme Court normally hears oral arguments between October and April, scheduling them into monthly two-week sittings during which the court hears two (although sometimes one or three) arguments per day on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Generally, the court allots one hour of argument time for each case, with each party speaking for 30 minutes.

NJ has beat the odds at several points

SCOTUS hears only about one or two percent of the cases that are brought to it each year. That the New Jersey case is getting its day in the Supreme Court is a win in and of itself.

But also consider other points along the way that the New Jersey case:

AGA weighs in

The American Gaming Association issued a statement after the announcement. The group representing casino interest in the US has been pushing for the legalization of sports betting:

“The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 has failed to protect sports and fans. PASPA, which is approaching its 25th anniversary, is fueling an unregulated $150 billion illegal gambling market that continues to deprive states of vital public funding for services such as law enforcement and infrastructure.

We are pleased the Supreme Court appears to have responded favorably to our arguments as to why they should hear this important case. And we are hopeful their engagement will provide further encouragement for Congress to take the steps necessary to create a regulated sports betting marketplace in the United States.

The gaming industry, and the American Sports Betting Coalition, is committed to working with all relevant stakeholders to build a system that protects states’ rights, fans and the integrity of sports.”

Attorney Daniel Wallach contributed to this story.