It's estimated that somewhere around $400 billion is wagered illegally underground and/or online on an annual basis in the United States, and it's the desire for access to that potentially taxable revenue stream that is ostensibly the driving force behind New Jersey governor Chris Christie's argument before the Supreme Court on Monday in the court case "Christie vs. the NCAA", in which Christie seeks to gain the allowance for states to decide their own laws on sports betting.
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. Yesterday, a hearing to the New Jersey's claim that U.S. states need to be given the chance to control their own laws, including the ones related to gambling, was carried out.
When Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Actin 1992, the four states that already legalized various kinds of wagers were grandfathered in.
Justice Elena Kagan, however, seemed to side with the NCAA and pro sports leagues, arguing that PASPA merely blocks states from legalizing sports gambling. It lost again in court.
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The state has said it is against the U.S. Constitution for the federal government to usurp state rights and provide Nevada with the ability to offer sports betting, but deny other states the same opportunity. The government sided with the NCAA. Traditionally, the court takes a couple of months to rule on each case.
New Jersey's lawyer, Ted Olsen, the former USA solicitor general, argued the ban is unconstitutional and violates a doctrine that prohibits the federal government from forcing states to enact policy. And the leagues argue that overturning it would result in reputational damage.
Seeing this possibility, the National Basketball Association has gotten ahead of other sports leagues like the NFL and MLB.
"The subject matter of this law is the state", Justice Stephen Breyer said, referring to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.
"Nebraska joined (the) brief exclusively because of the importance of the constitutional principle involved and not in any way based on the underlying state law at issue", he said.
Gibson Dunn & Crutcher attorney Theodore Olson presented the state's arguments this morning to the bench, saying that Congress is forcing New Jersey to adopt a law 64 percent of its voters specifically asked be repealed, Olson said. It made it unlawful for a government entity to "sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license, or authorize by law. a lottery, sweepstakes, or other betting, gambling, or wagering scheme" on competitive sports.
There will be a further two days of hearings this week, before the Supreme Court retires for its Christmas break, before reconvening on January 8th.
"I don't think that it's the silver bullet, but it should drive the economy to a certain extent", said Rummy Pandit, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism at Stockton University.
Ms. Minton said Europe has successfully legalized sports betting, allowing bookies to work with leagues to help control corruption. He said he could see a 6-3 ruling in favor of New Jersey, even if the court stays away from the constitutionality of the law. The Democrat sponsored the bill that legalized sports betting in the state, prompting the lawsuit from the four major USA sports leagues and the NCAA that ultimately made its way to the Supreme Court.
Geoff Freeman, the American Gaming Association's president, said, "The beauty of this case, while brought by New Jersey, is that it stands to benefit all states in the country". "Change is long overdue".
The Supreme Court is expected to clear the way for sports gambling across the country, and the Bay State casino industry is keeping an eye on what could be a game-changing decision.
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