Sports bettors – or wannabe sports bettors – have reason to be optimistic (but not overly confident) as the United States Supreme Court has said that it has granted certiorari in New Jersey’s “Christie II” sports betting case. A certiorari is a legal term which essentially means that a higher court – the Supreme Court in this case – will review the decision of a lower court.
In the case, the state of New Jersey, along with the New Jersey Throroughbred Horsemens Association is battling the five major sports organizations in the country: MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, and the NCAA. The case revolves around the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992, which made sports betting illegal in the United States. At the time of its implementation, states that had regulated sports betting for preceding decade were given the option to be grandfathered in, but only Nevada, Montana, Oregon, and Delaware decided to do so. Of those four, just Nevada has what we think of as traditional sports betting, which is why you probably didn’t realize you could be on sports in the other three states.
For whatever reason, New Jersey decided not to be grandfathered in and eventually came to regret that choice. In 2011, the state’s residents voted on a referendum to legalize sports betting, but the sports leagues sued to stop it. The leagues have won every time New Jersey has made similar attempts, building up to this latest announcement by the Supreme Court.
In a video on his YouTube account, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said, “Well, I’m thrilled that we got certiorari at the Supreme Court. Very few cases get granted certiorari by the Supreme Court, so I’m very optimistic and looking forward to having conversations later today with Ted Olson who represents us on the Supreme Court.”
He added that while he is not counting his chickens, he is “encouraged” by the certiorari, as it is a sign that the Supreme Court feels the case is actually worth consideration. If it wasn’t, the Supreme Court wouldn’t waste time with it.
One of the unfortunate things about this whole legal battle is that several of the leagues involved are either for sports betting and are probably just showing solidarity with the other leagues, are open to sports betting, or, in the NFL’s case, say they are against sports betting, but really like it because it drives so much of the interest in the sport.
Sports betting’s biggest proponent among the five leagues is NBA commissioner Adam Silver. In November 2014, Silver wrote an op-ed for The New York Times, calling for the legalization of sports betting on the federal level.
“Times have changed since Paspa was enacted,” Silver wrote. “Gambling has increasingly become a popular and accepted form of entertainment in the United States. Most states offer lotteries. Over half of them have legal casinos. Three have approved some form of Internet gambling, with others poised to follow.”
There is an obvious appetite among sports fans for a safe and legal way to wager on professional sporting events. Mainstream media outlets regularly publish sports betting lines and point spreads. Voters in New Jersey overwhelmingly voiced their support for legal sports betting in a 2011 referendum. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey recently signed a bill authorizing sports betting at local casinos and horse racetracks, a law the N.B.A. and other leagues have opposed — and a federal court has blocked — because it violates Paspa.
Outside of the United States, sports betting and other forms of gambling are popular, widely legal and subject to regulation. In England, for example, a sports bet can be placed on a smartphone, at a stadium kiosk or even using a television remote control.
Silver concluded by saying that federal law should be changed to permit states to legalize sports betting, subject to strict regulations.