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The Most Important Things To Know About The New Jersey Sports Betting Case

On Tuesday, the United States Supreme Court granted the petition by New Jersey to have its appeal heard to legalize sports betting in the state. 

This is a big deal for New Jersey, which has been fighting to legalize sports betting since 2009 when Sen. Ray Lesniak filed a suit to challenge PASPA (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which bans sports betting in all but four states).

If you haven't been following the case, I’ll try to break this down for you as quickly as possible. Here’s a timeline of how the legal battle has gone so far and it’s roughly like this: 

1992: PASPA is passed into law, which was ironically introduced by New Jersey Senator and former NBA player Bill Bradley. 

1994: New Jersey is given until Jan. 1 of this year in a deadline imposed by Congress to approve legal sports betting. It's sort of a 'last-call' offer for New Jersey, which they don't take advantage of. This continues to be a thorn in the state's side in the legal battle today.   

2009: Sen. Ray Lesniak files suit to challenge PASPA 

Nov. 2011: New Jersey residents vote in favor of legalizing sports betting at 65 percent in a referendum. 

Aug. 2012: NCAA and the four major pro leagues file suit in U.S. federal court to block New Jersey from allowing sports betting. 

March 2013: N.J. District Court judge Michael A. Shipp rules in favor of NCAA & the leagues. 

Sept. 2013: U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals upholds the initial ruling by 2-1 with one judge writing a dissent that said PASPA is unconstitutional. 

Oct. 2013: Federal Appeals Court shoots New Jersey down again. 
May 2017: The U.S. Solicitor General advises the Supreme Court it shouldn’t review New Jersey’s case. 

June 27, 2017: The Supreme Court grants New Jersey’s writ of certiorari to hear New Jersey’s case based on its merits. 

The latest means the case will now be heard at the highest level, the Supreme Court. SCOTUS will rule on whether or not PASPA is constitutional and the proceedings will go like this: 

Aug. 10: NJ’s merits brief
Aug. 17: Amici briefs
Sept. 14: Leagues’ response brief
Oct. 14: NJ’s reply brief 

New Jersey will likely once again argue that PASPA isn’t constitutional at all. They say it violates the 10th amendment and equal sovereignty whereby every state is supposed to be able to make its own laws as long as they fall in line with federal ones. It's called "commandeering" and you'll hear that term a lot in this case.

Four states were grandfathered in to allow sports betting when it was introduced in 1992 – Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon. It remains the only law in the U.S. where certain states have been granted exemptions and others haven’t. 

The NCAA and the leagues, who are opposing New Jersey, will argue that not only is PASPA constitutional but allowing sports betting would threaten the integrity of their games. You know – because once sports betting is legal people will start fixing games all over the place. 

The latest is a big step forward for New Jersey – especially considering the Solicitor General recommended that SCOTUS not give it the time of day. If New Jersey loses, the state at least succeeded in giving this case more legitimacy and it has thrust it back into the spotlight. 

I’m no lawyer but I’d say New Jersey is about a 4-1 underdog, maybe 3-1, to win this one. There are a few things that are different since 2013, though, and they are: 

1.    The NFL and NHL will soon have teams in Las Vegas. The leagues previously argued that sports betting would cause irreparable harm to their sports but this kills that argument.  
2.    Daily fantasy sports have exploded. The leagues have deals with these companies and it’s a frail argument that this isn’t a form of sports betting. 
3.    The American Gaming Association and other supporters have ramped up their lobbying efforts to overturn PASPA and support legalization nationwide. 
4.    Trump is in the White House. He has spoken in favor of legalizing sports betting in years past as a casino owner and some feel this could help the cause. 

Time will tell what happens for sports betting in the Garden State but this ruling creates some momentum for legalization. Those in favor of legalizing sports betting could be in for an exciting autumn. 

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