The United States Supreme Court agreed on Monday to allow New Jersey's bid for sports betting at its casinos and racetracks, effectively ending on a prohibition on a $100 billion industry and striking down restrictions on wagering outside of Nevada.
The ruling could allow as many as 25 other states to seek similar allowances.
The case, Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, dealt with if the government had the right to "impermissibly commandeer the regulatory power of States."
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected New Jersey law in 2016, ruling that the statute violated the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) which forbids state-authorized sports gambling.
The move in trying to get New Jersey into legalized sports betting started years ago by former governor Chris Christie and other lawmakers, with the state passing a non-binding referendum allowing sports betting in 2011.
Each of the North American major pro sports leagues and the NCAA filed a lawsuit against the state the following year after Christie signed a sports betting law, suing in 2012 and again in 2014.
The sports leagues players' unions have said they want to be involved in some facet amid concern about fixing games and point shaving.
"Given the pending Supreme Court decision regarding the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) ... The time has come to address not just who profits from sports gambling, but also the costs. Our unions have been discussing the potential impact of legalized gambling on players' privacy and publicity rights, the integrity of our games and the volatility on our businesses," the Players Associations said in a joint statement in January.
Congress did give New Jersey a chance to become the fifth state to allow gambling before the ban was enacted, but the state failed to pass a sports betting law in the time allotted.
In other words, betting on pro and college sporting events is about to become legal in New Jersey, and you'd better believe a whole lot of states are going to follow suit very quickly. Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Connecticut and Mississippi have already passed laws in anticipation of the ruling, and 14 more states are ready to pull the trigger on sports betting laws, including California, New York, Illinois, Louisiana, and of course right here in Kentucky. Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan will almost certainly get involved as well. The two big states you can count on not taking bets: Texas and Florida.
Illegal sports betting in states outside Nevada is a $100 to $150 billion a year industry or more, depending on who you ask, and I anticipate dozens of states are going to make it legal and start collecting taxes on it with a swiftness.
Now, Congress isn't just sitting around and is actually ready to introduce legislation that bans sports betting in a way that meets Alito's test, at least in the Senate anyway.
But speaking of Alito, here's the thing: Alito's ruling makes it clear that the federal government can force states to do things by making them illegal but it can't pass laws that prevent state legislatures from allowing things to happen. Guess what falls into that second, unconstitutional category of "commandeering state legislatures"?
That doctrine, moreover, has implications well beyond the realm of sports betting. Murphy isn’t simply good news for Atlantic City. It also bolsters the legal case against the Trump administration’s crackdown on so-called “sanctuary cities.”
Murphy concerns the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), a very odd statute which “makes it ‘unlawful’ for a State or any of its subdivisions ‘to sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license, or authorize by law or compact . . . a lottery, sweepstakes, or other betting, gambling, or wagering scheme based . . . on’ competitive sporting events.”
What makes this law unusual is that Congress typically does not forbid state lawmakers from taking a particular action. If Congress wants to ban sports betting, it can simply ban sports betting, and instruct federal agents to enforce that law. Banning state lawmakers from authorizing sports betting is a strangely roundabout way of accomplishing a similar goal. And it is also, as Justice Alito explains, unconstitutional.
The reason why stems from the Supreme Court’s “anticommandeering” doctrine, which prohibits Congress from effectively drafting states into federal law enforcement. As the Court held in New York v. United States, “we have always understood that even where Congress has the authority under the Constitution to pass laws requiring or prohibiting certain acts, it lacks the power directly to compel the States to require or prohibit those acts.”
“Where a federal interest is sufficiently strong to cause Congress to legislate,” New York explained, “it must do so directly; it may not conscript state governments as its agents.”
The core holding of Murphy is that the anticommandeering doctrine applies equally to federal laws requiring state officials to take a particular action and federal laws prohibiting state lawmakers from enacting a particular law. “Congress,” Alito explains, “cannot issue direct orders to state legislatures.”
In other words, this just blew a hole in the Trump regime's sanctuary city claim that state and local government have to allow federal law enforcement officers in to conduct ICE business.
We'll see this in court for sure.
You can bet on that.