The Supreme Court Might Finally Let You Bet On Sports Without Having To Fly To Vegas
As it currently stands, if you want to legally bet on a sporting event in the United States, you have to book a flight to Las Vegas and find a smoke-filled sportsbook littered with betting slips where you’ll place a couple of parlays before sipping enough watered-down drinks to decide it’s a good idea to throw some money on third-division English soccer games and Eastern European tennis matches. Thankfully, New Jersey is doing everything it can to let people across the country spiral down that rabbit hole without having to leave the comfort of their state.
In 2014, Chris Christie signed a law that would have allowed betting at the state’s casinos and racetracks, but he was brought to court after the statute was challenged by every professional sports league and the NCAA. The case has been working its way through the system over the past couple of years, and on Monday the Supreme Court heard oral arguments, with multiple justices appearing to be slightly sympathetic to New Jersey’s argument.
Congress banned states from legalizing sports betting in 1992, and it appears to current cases boils down to whether or not the federal government overstepped their bounds in doing so. The Court isn’t required to make a final ruling until June, but at least a couple of justices seem to think the state has an argument.
Per the AP:
Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor seemed to suggest that Congress’ action was permissible. But other justices suggested that they would side with New Jersey. Justice Anthony Kennedy told Paul Clement, who was arguing for the sports leagues, that the law seemed like impermissible “commandeering,” or compelling the state to take an action.
Other justices suggested an interest in avoiding striking down the federal law as unconstitutional even if they side with New Jersey. Justice Neil Gorsuch told Ted Olson, who was arguing for New Jersey, that the court normally interprets statutes in a way to avoid the constitutional question if it can.
An estimated $150 billion in illicitly gambled money changes hands every year, so it makes sense that plenty of states would jump on the opportunity to get in on the action (12 other governors have expressed their support for New Jersey’s argument, and it’s estimated up to 32 states would institute some form of legal wagering within five years of getting the go-ahead).
In the meantime, most of us will have to rely on a bookie who hopefully won’t pull an A.J. Soprano and pour acid on your foot if you can’t pay up.