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Will the Supreme Court Legalize Sports Gambling Nationwide?

By George Khoury, Esq. on December 04, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Supreme Court recently heard arguments in the Christie v. NCAA matter. The questions asked by the justices and their responses are leading commentators to believe the High Court could very well legalize sports gambling not just in Jersey, but nationwide.

Some justices were rather skeptical of the argument that the 1992 federal gaming prohibition was an overreach of Congress's authority to regulate state activity, and particularly what that would mean for similar congressional enactments. But, as reports have noted, other justices, including Justices Kennedy, Breyer, Roberts and Alito, were much more receptive.

SCOTUS Sports Betting Slippery Slope

One of the issues pointed out during arguments involved the slippery slope of where invalidating the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) would lead. The law basically prohibits states from allowing gambling. Justice Breyer, and others, agreed that PASPA was "telling states what to do," which could very well run afoul of the Tenth Amendment, or so their argument goes.

Justice Kagan was critical of the argument that federal preemption would only apply if there was a comprehensive federal regulation or statute on the matter. But proponents compare it to medical and recreational marijuana which has been legalized in many states despite the federal prohibition.

If SCOTUS rules in favor of New Jersey, it is anticipated that several other states will likely jump on board the sports gambling bandwagon. Gaming experts believe that California, New York, Florida, and Illinois could be among the first.

Side Note

As an interesting aside, in a more esoteric SCOTUSblog piece on the case, we learn that Governor Chris Christie was admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court on the morning of the arguments. Though he personally did not argue in front of the Court, having his name attached to this major sports gaming case is likely a point of pride for the soon-to-be retiring governor as he has been a vocal supporter of sports gambling.

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