Supreme Court Sets December Date for Oral Arguments in New Jersey Sports Betting Case

Oral arguments in the case of Christie vs. NCAA et al will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on December 4, marking the next phase in New Jersey’s challenge of the federal sports betting ban.

The date was first announced via Twitter last week by reporter Robert Barnes, who covers the Court for The Washington Post.

Since 2011, when voters approved a constitutional amendment to repeal an existing statewide ban on sports betting, New Jersey has been entangled in a legal controversy over states’ rights.

The state’s Legislature passed a voter-approved Sports Wagering Act the following year, and Governor Chris Christie signed it into law.

This reform was immediately challenged by North America’s four major professional sports leagues – the National Football League (NFL), the National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Baseball (MLB), and the National Hockey League (NHL) – along with the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

In the resulting case, Christie vs. NCAA et al, the leagues argued that New Jersey’s attempt to regulate sports betting violated the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992. That federal law limited sports betting in the U.S. to just four states – Nevada, Oregon, Delaware and Montana.

After initial judgments ruled in favor of the leagues, New Jersey successfully filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the Court in October of 2016.

Over the course of several months, the Court considered several brief amici curiae from stakeholders on both sides of the issue, including the American Gaming Association (AGA), Pacific Legal Association (PLA), and the Attorneys General representing 18 states.

In June of this year, the Court granted New Jersey’s petition and agreed to hear the case.

This decision – which occurs in just 1 percent of cases that file – immediately led to speculation that the Court agreed with the merits of a PASPA repeal.

The likelihood that level of federal reform takes place is said to be so high that many of the leagues challenging New Jersey – including MLB and the NBA – have officially announced their willingness to embrace legalized sports betting nationwide.

Nelson Rose, an attorney specializing in gaming law, took to his professional blog to speculate on the Court’s intentions:

“I’m hoping the Court will give us a clean decision. The worst result would be a ruling that New Jersey only has the right to decriminalize sports betting, but not regulate it.

Other states would follow, with some truly weird statutes eliminating laws against sports betting, and who knows what else.”

Even so, Rose agrees with the general consensus that PASPA has run its course, as several Congressional challenges to the law are also pending:

“Even if New Jersey loses, PASPA is toast. The law was passed in 1992, when there was no World Wide Web, let alone internet gambling, daily fantasy sports or eSports.

States and gaming operators will see that they can create coalitions in Congress on the state’s right issue of letting states make their own decisions about gambling.”

Given the December 4 date for oral arguments, the Court is likely to render a decision in the first half of 2018.