New Jersey’s SCOTUS Case Could Ruin Sports Betting In Nevada

New Jersey’s SCOTUS Case Could Ruin Sports Betting In NevadaWhen SCOTUS announced that they would be hearing New Jersey’s petition for sports betting, many experts believed that one of two outcomes would ensue: New Jersey would win, and PASPA would be put down, or New Jersey would lose, and PASPA would be upheld.

But Ryan Rodenberg and John Holden uncovered a potentially disastrous third outcome, which they published in the Duke Law Journal. New Jersey could win, PASPA could be ruled unconstitutional, and Nevada could lose the right to offer sports betting.

Rodenberg and Holden purport that if SCOTUS does examine the validity of PASPA, they would see that it does, in fact, violate equal sovereignty. But according to the paper they published with Duke Law Review, “The appropriate remedy would be to sever out § 3704’s differential grandfather clause, not eviscerate § 3702’s blanket ban. Such a remedy would be an unwelcome result for New Jersey and Nevada, but a correct application of the equal sovereignty doctrine vis-à-vis PASPA.”

This situation could happen under New Jersey’s current argument that PASPA violates the state sovereignty clause in the Constitution. This would not only kill any hope for New Jersey to gain legal sports betting without a full repeal of the current federal law, it would also drive the American sports betting market even further into the black market.

The Supreme Court of the United States only agrees to hear about 1% of the cases that petition for cert. Those cases almost always pose constitutional questions. SCOTUS did not agree to hear Christie I, which claimed that they were being commanded to do something by the federal government, but they have agreed to hear Christie II, which claims that both state sovereignty and anticommandeering doctrine is being violated. The decision to hear the second case but not the first could have something to do with the equal sovereignty aspect of the situation.

Of course, attempting to read into a SCOTUS analysis of the equal sovereignty clause does nothing but lead down a rabbit hole. While Rodenberg and Holden think that this could spell trouble for Nevada, many other legal experts believe that if SCOTUS upholds equal sovereignty, New Jersey will have legal sports betting by this time next year.

Daniel Wallach is one such expert. According to Wallach, banning sports betting in the grandfathered states would have an adverse effect on the states’ economies, which is the exact reason that they were grandfathered into the law in the first place. PASPA was enacted in order to prevent the spread of sports betting but has not done so. As a failed law, and with preferential treatment being shown to a couple of states over all others, Wallach believes that “PASPA might not survive scrutiny.”

“The reason for the disparate treatment of Nevada, Oregon, Montana, and Delaware (The four “grandfathered” states) was to protect the ‘strong reliance interests’ of those states that had legalized sports betting prior to the enactment of PASPA. But such carveouts do not appear to be ‘sufficiently related’ to the targeted goals of PASPA,” says Wallach.

No one knows how SCOTUS will fall on the issue of equal sovereignty. It’s also not the only piece of the puzzle being argued. Christie vs. NCAA Et Al will have its merits brief filed with the court by August 10th, and oral arguments will be scheduled for sometime late in 2017 or early in 2018. Until then, for gamblers in sports betting states, everything is just speculation.