Chief Justice John Roberts will cast his vote in the New Jersey sports betting case in front of the US Supreme Court on its merits.
But that doesn’t make his history of once representing the American Gaming Association in a brief filed to the Supreme Court court less interesting.
Roberts and the AGA
Roberts’ law firm was retained by the AGA — a trade group representing the land-based casino industry in the US — in a case in front of SCOTUS from 1999: Greater New Orleans Broadcasting vs. US.
The case itself isn’t germane to the NJ sports betting case, but here’s the recap from The Federalist Society:
The Supreme Court struck down a federal prohibition on broadcast advertising of casino gambling as applied to broadcasters in states where such gambling is legal. …
Greater New Orleans involved a challenge to 18 U.S.C. §1304, which prohibits radio and television broadcasting of “any advertisement of or information concerning any lottery, gift enterprise, or similar scheme, offering prizes dependent in whole or in part upon lot or chance.”
The AGA was one of a number of parties to file an amicus brief in the current sports betting case, as New Jersey attempts to legalize sports betting within its own borders. The AGA is pushing for a repeal of the sports betting prohibition via Congress.
Will Roberts be sympathetic to the NJ cause?
Why did SCOTUS take up the NJ case? Gaming law expert I. Nelson Rose has a theory on his blog:
I think this is all due to my former classmate, Chief Justice John Roberts (Harvard Law School 1979). Roberts is strongly for state’s rights, particularly for letting states make their own decisions, free from controls by Congress. He is also, probably, pro-gambling. …
Roberts appreciates that legal gambling is a state issue. He and the other conservative members of the Court would like to knock out every federal law that prevents states from making their own decisions.
How SCOTUS will ultimately come down? The possible outcomes run the gamut from the status quo, to the federal prohibition of PASPA being struck down. Some even feel like SCOTUS could shut down the industry of Nevada sports betting as a result.
But the early read is that the top justice could be friend to the cause of sports betting.