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New Jersey sports betting case kicks off

US Supreme Court

NEW JERSEY could have legalised sports betting within two weeks of a decision from the Supreme Court, according to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is finally trying the New Jersey sports betting case, and all 50 US states are watching closely.

While the country expects a decision to be handed down before June, Christie believes the state could have a regulated sports betting industry within two weeks of a favourable decision.

“We’re like boy scouts, we’re prepared, we’re prepared in New Jersey and we’re ready to go,” Christie said outside of court on Monday.

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And it appears some SCOTUS members are siding with New Jersey as the proceedings begin, as several justices agree that the federal ban on American sports betting enforced by the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) is flawed.

“So the citizens of the state of New Jersey are bound to obey a law that the state doesn’t want, but that the federal government compels the state to have,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said.

He added that it seems to violate the constitutional prohibition on what is called “commandeering.”

While New Jersey has attempted to legalise sports betting and integrate it into its casinos and racetracks for several years, the four major sporting leagues, including the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB, as well as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), have legally challenged the attempts every time.

When SCOTUS agreed to hear the NJ sports betting case, several of the major sports betting leagues (except for NFL) said they were somewhat open to legalising sports betting.

However, they still submitted support for the ban in their amicus briefs.

The American Gaming Association (AGA) has been an avid supporter of a PASPA repeal, stating that $150 billion is spent on illegal gambling annually.

Supreme Court practitioner, Theodore B. Olson, representing New Jersey, reiterated this point in court on Monday.

“Betting on sports is taking place all over the United States,” he said.

“Five percent of it is legal in Nevada. The rest of it is illegal. New Jersey decided we are going to look at it.”

But some justices questioned why PASPA was unconstitutional since the federal government is responsible for interstate commerce.

“Mr Olson, isn’t that what the government does whenever it pre-empts state laws?” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked.

“It says, ‘You can’t regulate.’ ”

Justice Elena Kagan also said that the federal government is pre-empting state regulatory power and the states can’t do anything.

Justice Stephen G. Breyers sided with Olson, arguing that “it is the state and not the person who becomes the subject of a federal law” if Congress tells them what to do.

The support is unprecedented, with lower courts quick to strike down NJ’s case which occurred after Christie attempted to sign a law legalising sports betting.

Although Christie then attempted to appeal the statute which makes it a criminal offence to bet on sports, the lower courts said the intention was the same.

Representation for the NCCA and major sports leagues argued that SCOTUS should reaffirm the lower courts ruling, and said that Congress created PASPA as it “did not want there to be sports gambling schemes operating in interstate commerce.”