November 15, 2016
By David Purdum
Five states — Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia and Wisconsin — and the American Gaming Association filed amicus briefs with the United States Supreme Court this week in support of New Jersey’s efforts to offer legal sports betting at its casinos and racetracks.
New Jersey, after losing a decision in the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in August, filed a request to the Supreme Court in October. It’s the second time New Jersey has asked the Supreme Court to hear its case against the NCAA and four major professional sports leagues, which sued Gov. Chris Christie in 2012, setting off a legal battle that has lasted more than four years. The leagues have won every step of the way.
The Supreme Court declined to take New Jersey’s case in 2014, but the group of states is hoping for a different outcome this time. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey took the lead on the amicus brief for the five states, which have concerns over federalism issues and believe the Third Circuit’s ruling against New Jersey “fundamentally alters the nature of federal-state relations.”
“The concern of the Amici States … is not what Congress regulates but how it does so,” the states wrote in the brief filed Monday.
The American Gaming Association, represented by Washington, D.C., law firm Sidley Austin LLP, claims the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), the federal prohibition of state-sponsored sports betting, is unconstitutional and prevents states from “combatting illegal and organized crime.”
“The Third Circuit’s decision is not just wrong; it is dangerous because it deprives States of the authority to combat illegal gambling,” the AGA wrote in its brief, also filed Monday.
Only a handful of states may offer legal sports betting, with only Nevada being allowed to accept bets on single games and events.
The AGA says the federal laws have helped create a massive black market and estimates that around $150 billion is wagered illegally on sports annually in the U.S.
The AGA has begun forming a coalition and is planning to lobby Congress in 2017 to lift the federal ban on sports betting. AGA president and CEO Geoff Freeman has said President-elect Donald Trump will have sports betting legislation on his desk during his term.
“As President-elect Donald Trump has acknowledged, illegal sports betting is a thriving industry,” Freeman said in a statement to ESPN. “The 24-year-old federal ban — which is breathing life into a $150 billion illegal sports betting market — threatens the integrity of games, presents fundamental questions about states’ sovereignty to define their own laws and combat crime within their borders, and prevents fans from engaging with the sports they enjoy in a safe, legal way. The United States Supreme Court should consider New Jersey’s important claims and allow all states to address the serious problems associated with illegal sports betting.”
In 1993, Trump told reporters that legalizing sports betting in New Jersey is vital to “putting the bookies out of business.”
The Supreme Court’s decision whether to take the New Jersey case is expected sometime early in 2017. The Supreme Court accepts only a tiny percentage of cases.
The sports leagues have until Dec. 14 to file their briefs.