SCOTUS Set To Take Up New Jersey’s Battle To Legalize Sports Betting

WASHINGTON, DC (CBS) — The US Supreme Court hears arguments Monday morning on New Jersey’s bid to overturn a federal prohibition on sports betting in all but four states across America.

It’s Chris Christie verses the NCAA. But if it works, it could change legalized sports betting from coast to coast.

David Noll, assistant professor at the Rutgers Law School, says the justices have declined to review the 1992 federal law several times. So why give it a look now?

“The argument is that instead of just saying you can’t bet on sports games which Congress would undoubtedly have the power to do, Congress here has almost engaged in a slight of hand by directing the states how they are to regulate sports gambling and that raises constitutional concerns,” Noll told KYW Newsradio.

New Jersey is arguing that the federal law is overreaching, while the sports leagues and the feds suggest the law is fine as is.

“The Solicitor General, which represents the United States in the Supreme Court, urged the court not even to take the case,” Noll added. “And generally the Solicitor General’s views carry a lot of weight with the Justices. But the case was granted over the Solicitor General’s objection, which tells us that there’s at least four justices who see a serious constitutional issue.”

How serious and in what parts of the law? We could get a clue through the questions posed in open court. And he suggests you pay attention to Anthony Kennedy’s line of questioning.

“Justice Kennedy has a long standing interest in preserving a role for the states that’s distinct from the federal government and he played an important role in two cases from the 1990’s that New Jersey is relying on in challenging this federal statute.”

Both cases found a state can’t be forced to carry out a federal policy.

But then again, since New Jersey is only challenging a part of the federal ban, Noll sees a potential result that could leave the question of sports betting open, perhaps for years to come.

“Even if New Jersey wins the argument and says that the statute is unconstitutionally telling New Jersey how to write its own laws, there’s still a prohibition on what casinos and race tracks can do,” he said, “and that prohibition could be enforced by the Justice Department directly against the casinos and the race tracks.”