Supreme Court Says Yes To NJ Sports Betting Case

Supreme Court Says Yes To NJ Sports Betting CaseIn what can be considered the first victory in New Jersey’s longstanding battle to offer legalized sports betting, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the state’s appeal.

On Tuesday morning, SCOTUS announced their decision to review the controversial legal debate that began in 2012. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was sued by 5 major sports leagues – the NCAA, NFL, NBA, NHL, and Major League Baseball – over a law that would bring legal sports betting to the state’s casinos and racetracks. Though there was much opposition by the leagues and other opponents, at least four of the nine Supreme Court justices agreed to issue a ruling on the case.

“The fact that the Supreme Court granted cert. in this case is a very good sign for sports betting having a future in New Jersey,” said Governor Chris Christie. “I’m encouraged by it. We’re not declaring victory, but at least we’re in the game, and that’s what we want to be.”

Whether victorious or not, the end result of this triumph will forever change the sports betting landscape in the United States. New Jersey has transformed sports betting from a statewide topic to a national issue. Marc Dunbar, a Tallahassee gambling lobbyist and partner in the Jones Walker law firm, stated that “the case started the conversation in earnest about sports betting in the United States.”

With the Supreme Court now agreeing to hear arguments from New Jersey in favor of legalized sports betting, there are key questions that both proponents and opponents of sports betting want answers to.

How Did The Legal Battle Start?

In 2011, New Jersey residents voted to approve a constitutional amendment that would legalize sports gambling in the state. As a result of the statewide referendum, Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation in 2012 that would regulate sports betting within with state. Shortly thereafter, the NCAA, NFL, NBA, NHL, and Major League Baseball sued the state citing that the new law was in direct violation of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA). PASPA is a federal law that bans all states except for Nevada, Delaware, Montana, and Oregon from offering legal sports betting. The court ruled in favor of the sports leagues, resulting in NJ’s first legal loss.

In 2014, New Jersey passed a law that partially repealed the state’s sports betting prohibition, allowing casinos and racetracks to start taking sports bets. The leagues once again filed suit against the state and New Jersey lost 2-1. NJ then requested a rehearing in front of an en banc hearing of judges, where they were again defeated with nine of twelve judges siding with the leagues.

It was after this ruling by the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals that New Jersey petitioned for certiorari from the U.S. Supreme Court. Rather than issue an immediate decision as to whether or not the appeal would be heard, SCOTUS called upon the Solicitor General’s office to offer their recommendation on if the Court should hear the case. This May, acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall asked the Court not to hear the case, making Tuesday’s announcement even more of a surprise.

What’re The Next Steps In This Case?

Now that certiorari has been granted, we can begin to establish a timeline for what will happen next. According to Sports Law Attorney Daniel Wallach, both parties will file “merits” briefs where they argue why their side of the case is valid and just.

As the petitioner, New Jersey’s opening briefs would be required by August 10th unless an extension is requested. Amici curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs are due just one week after NJ files its merits brief, which would indicate August 17th as the tentative deadline. The leagues would need to file their response brief within 35 days of NJ filing their opening brief, which would be September 14th if the speculative schedule is followed.

New Jersey would then need to file their reply brief at least one week before the oral arguments are scheduled, but no later than 30 days after the leagues’ response brief.

Wallach believes that the oral arguments will be scheduled for sometime in the fall.

"The Supreme Court normally hears oral arguments between October and April, scheduling them into monthly two-week sittings during which the court hears two arguments per day on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday," Wallach said. "Generally, the court allots one hour of argument time for each case, with each party speaking for 30 minutes."

Immediately after the Supreme Court revealed that it would be granting the request - which is a feat in itself as the Court grants from 75 to 80 appeals out of the 10,000 plus it receives each year - Gov. Chris Christie issued a statement that showed his confidence in the case.

“I’m very optimistic and looking forward to having conversations later today with Ted Olson who represents us on the Supreme Court,” said Christie. “I’m feeling pretty good. He’s got a .750 winning percentage in the Supreme Court, so I feel pretty good having Ted Olson represent us.”

How Will Other States Be Impacted?

The New Jersey sports betting case is still underway, but Gov. Chris Christie has earned the support of other states throughout his legal journey.

There has been a recent influx of states pushing to legalize sports betting by introducing their own bills. Last year, New York added sports betting to its list of potential permissible gambling options. Pennsylvania introduced two sports betting bills this year, and Michigan proposed a bill that would allow licensed casinos to offer sports betting. Many of these states have already passed daily fantasy sports regulations, which many view as the gateway to normalizing legal sports betting.

Being that one of New Jersey’s main arguments is the unconstitutionality of PASPA, via violation of the 10th Amendment, a ruling in the state’s favor would have national implications. The legal opinion of the federal law could even remain constitutional, but if the Court finds that NJ’s sports betting laws are permissible then that is still a huge victory. New Jersey would serve as the new model for states with sports betting by establishing a regulated sports betting environment, with the path clear for other states to enact similar sports betting legislation.