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Supreme Court Hears Sports Wagering Oral Arguments

Case examines constitutionality of Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.

Reporters and expert analysts said Dec. 4 that the Supreme Court appears to be leaning toward giving states the ability to allow legal sports wagering.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Dec. 4 as it considers the sports wagering issue in a case brought by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie against the National Collegiate Athletic Association. The Court is examining the constitutionality of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), which prohibits sports betting outside of Nevada and a handful of more regulated states.

Should PASPA be overturned by the Court or ended by lawmakers, New Jersey and other states are poised to move forward with legal sports wagering. New Jersey voters already have approved the addition of sports wagering at racetracks and casinos. Monmouth Park has a facility in place to add sports wagering.

The Supreme Court is not expected to issue a decision until June in the case, but as for reading the tea leaves:

  • The Los Angeles Times reported: The justices gave a friendly hearing to New Jersey's claim that states are free to control their own laws, including in the area of gambling, unless Congress has adopted a federal regulatory policy to prohibit it. And Congress failed to do that when it passed a 1992 law, the state maintained. The federal law did not actually ban sports wagering, but instead said states may not "authorize by law" such gaming.
  • Bloomberg reported: U.S. Supreme Court justices suggested they may uphold New Jersey's legalization of sports gambling, in a move that could ripple quickly across the country and let other states grab some of the billions of dollars now bet illegally.
  • ABC News reported that Justice Anthony Kennedy told Paul Clement, who was arguing for the sports leagues, that the law seemed like impermissible "commandeering," or compelling the state to take an action.

In a statement, American Gaming Association president and CEO Geoff Freeman predicted the end of PASPA one way or another.

"Today is a positive day for the millions of Americans seeking to legally wager on sporting events. While we can't predict the intentions of Supreme Court Justices, we can accurately predict the demise of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection of 1992," Freeman said. "The justices of the Court expressed deep interest in the role of the federal government, a role that we believe has created a thriving illegal market that has driven trillions of dollars to offshore websites and corner bookies. States and tribal sovereign nations have proven to be effective regulators of gaming and today's oral arguments before the Supreme Court moved them one giant step closer to offering a new product that Americans demand."