Several Supreme Court justices indicated on Monday that they might strike down a federal gambling law.
According to ABC News, more than a dozen states support New Jersey’s challenge to a federal law that bans states from allowing gambling on most professional and college sports.
If the federal law is struck down, several states could soon legalize sports gambling.
If the Supreme Court strikes down the law, giving sports betting the go-ahead, 32 states would likely offer it within five years, according to a report by a California research firm.
The case pits New Jersey and other states against all four major U.S. professional sports leagues, the NCAA and the federal government. The stakes are high. The American Gaming Association estimates that Americans illegally wager about $150 billion on sports each year.
The NBA, NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball are arguing that striking down the law would hurt the integrity of their games, though leaders of all but the NFL have shown varying degrees of openness to legalized sports gambling.
While the major sports leagues might oppose sports gambling in court, league leaders in most leagues, besides the NFL, have expressed interest in legalizing sports betting.
Fantasy sports bets, on the other hand, don’t seem to “hurt the integrity” of games at all, according to the leagues.
Fantasy sports aren’t considered gambling by the leagues because wins and losses are based on athletes as individuals.
From ABC News:
Outside of court, leaders of three of the four leagues have made public comments that suggest they wouldn’t mind losing the case. Only the NFL has been steadfast in its opposition to gambling, a stance that critics see as hypocritical, especially as the Raiders plan a move to a billion-dollar stadium just off the Las Vegas Strip […]
The leagues have also embraced fantasy sports, which [NFL Commissioner] Goodell has argued is not gambling because players win based on the performance of individual athletes, not the outcome of games.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took the case to the Supreme Court after sports leagues challenged state passed laws in both 2012 and 2014.
The state was in violation of federal law, however.
If the Supreme Court decides in New Jersey’s favor, states would be free to pass their own sports gambling laws, without dealing with the federal law which has barred such actions since 1992.
ABC News continues:
Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor seemed to suggest that Congress’ action was permissible. But other justices suggested that they would side with New Jersey. 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.
Other justices suggested an interest in avoiding striking down the federal law as unconstitutional even if they side with New Jersey. Justice Neil Gorsuch told Ted Olson, who was arguing for New Jersey, that the court normally interprets statutes in a way to avoid the constitutional question if it can.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, sat in the front row of the courtroom as the justices debated the case. His state has spent millions of dollars in legal fees trying to legalize sports betting. In 2012, with voters’ support, state lawmakers authorized betting on sports at the state’s casinos and racetracks. The action was a direct challenge to the federal law, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.
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