In Surprise Move, Supreme Court Will Take On New Jersey Sports-Betting Case

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Supreme Court of The United States In the East Conference Room. A ceremonial room used for meetings, receptions and special events. Seated from left, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, and Associate Justice Stephen Breyer. Standing behind from left, Associate Justice Elena Kagan, Associate Justice Samuel Alito Jr., Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday announced it will hear arguments in the state of New Jersey’s quest to legalize sports gambling, overruling the U.S. Solicitor General’s opinion that the case was not worthy of its time. The court generally gives great weight to the solicitor general’s input, but apparently, the judges feel this case deserves their attention.

New Jersey has been seeking to legalize sports betting for some time in an attempt to prop up its sagging casino industry, with each attempt successfully opposed by the major U.S. sports leagues and the NCAA in federal court. At issue is the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), which bans sports gambling in all but a handful of states. The law has not stopped the spread of sports betting in the United States, however, with some studies estimating that hundreds of billions of dollars are wagered illegally in this country each year.

And even if New Jersey loses its Supreme Court case, its fight for sports gambling has put the issue in the national spotlight, generating a new conversation about whether a partial ban on sports betting is the best way forward. Though the U.S. professional sports leagues have opposed New Jersey in court, a number of them have shown an evolution of thought on sports gambling. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has long supported federally regulated sports gambling while the NFL and NHL will soon have franchises located in Las Vegas, a notion that would have been inconceivable just a few years ago.

Last month, a congressional committee introduced draft legislation that would repeal PASPA and allow states to legalize online gambling, with oversight provided by the Federal Trade Commission.

A number of other states beyond New Jersey also have considered legislation that would legalize the practice.

No date has been set for the one-hour oral arguments in front of the Supreme Court justices, though a timeline for the case appears to be taking shape. Each side will file briefs supporting their arguments over the next few months.

(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Matt Bonesteel

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