Supreme Court to Take Up Sports Betting Case

Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Frank Sinatra and The Sopranos may soon have company as positive contributions from New Jersey. Yesterday the Supreme Court granted cert in Christie v. NCAA. In that case New Jersey is seeking to overturn the federal ban on sports betting (it also notable for being a case in which Gov. Christie is not a defendant). New Jersey passed a law legalizing sports betting within the state. The NCAA sued to block the law and won at the district court and federal appellate court.

Gambling laws are confusing and not at all consistent in the United States. Remember that authority is allocated to both state and the federal governments. Under the Constitution, states have the powers that are not delegated to nor denied from Congress or denied to the states. Gambling is usually a state issue. Many states have lotteries and casinos. States also have their own laws regarding sports betting with it illegal completely in 46 states. Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 1992 which effectively prohibits states from legalizing sports betting if it had already been banned under their law. Also, the act does not apply to horse racing, dog racing or jai-lai. Nevada is the only state that allows across-the-board betting on sports. Oregon, Delaware and Montana allow for parlay tickets.

The issue is whether Congress has the authority to regulate sports betting that occurs inside states. There are two major Constitutional provisions at play. The commerce clause enables Congress to legislate on issues that affect interstate commerce. The Tenth Amendment (often discussed yet hardly cited) reserves powers not expressly granted to Congress to the states. I expect the Court to focus on the commerce clause. Chief Justice Roberts has been consistent in his desire to limit the commerce clause's power. There is an argument that sports betting implicates interstate commerce because most sports wagers occur in states other than where the games are. I think the logical counter is that the actual activity is the wager itself and as long as that is not crossing state lines, there is not interstate commerce for Congress to have power. Internet gambling however would still involve interstate commerce.

If the law is struck down, states would be on their own to legalize sports betting. Like many other products and activities, some will and some will not. Sports betting is currently illegal in Connecticut however our legislature recently passed a bill directing the Department of Consumer Protection to prepare for legalized sports betting.

I think sports betting should be legal. The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act should be struck down and after that Connecticut should legalize sports betting. Sports betting is already rampant. Lines are printed in newspapers and discussed on TV and radio. But because sports betting is illegal outside of Nevada, its profits are not taxed. The idea that it corrupts sports is a crock. It is already legal in one state. It is also legal in many other countries, including the U.K., Australia and New Zealand where sports books are common on city blocks.

Almost as interesting as the Supreme Court's position will be the federal government's position.





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