TRENTON — The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to announce Monday morning whether it will hear New Jersey’s years-long effort to allow sports betting at the state’s racetracks and casinos.
So do the chances look good for the Garden State? It depends on whom you ask.
Gov. Chris Christie‘s administration has fought since 2011 to make betting on sports games legal in an effort to boost the state’s ailing horse-racing and Atlantic City casino industries.
But the NCAA and four professional sports leagues — the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL — have sued the state multiple times to stop the plans, saying New Jersey’s bid would violate a federal ban on sports betting in all but four states and hurt the integrity of their leagues’ games.
Federal courts have continuously sided with the leagues. And the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider an earlier version of the case.
This time, the nation’s highest court will decide whether to hear an appeal of a ruling last August by the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. That ruling said New Jersey’s latest attempt — to allow sports wagering without state regulation — doesn’t work because sports betting is “clearly and completely legally prohibited” under federal law.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court asked acting Solicitor General Jeffrey B. Wall to weigh in on the matter. Wall — the top attorney for President Donald Trump‘s administration that argues cases before the Supreme Court — wrote that New Jersey doesn’t have a case because sports betting without regulation “is no different than a positive enactment authorizing such gambling.”
Still, Daniel Wallach, a sports gaming expert, said New Jersey actually has an “excellent chance” at getting the Supreme Court to take up the case despite Wall’s comments.
“The court is already interested in the case just by requesting the solicitor general’s viewpoint,” said Wallach, a gaming and sports law attorney with Becker & Poliakoff in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “That means at least four justices are sufficiently interested in the case.”
Wallach also noted that the Supreme Court is at the end of its current term — a time when it accepts the largest number of cases.
“I would say New Jersey has a sneakily high chance of success,” he said.
But state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, the lawmaker who has driven New Jersey’s six-year fight, isn’t as optimistic because of the solicitor general’s opinion.
“It doesn’t mean the Supreme Court has to follow that opinion, but it’s harmful to our efforts,” Lesniak (D-Union) said.
Instead, Lesniak has worked on legislation that would repeal the state’s laws against sports betting but would still keep sports betting under the regulations that apply to any business in New Jersey — “as long as they are not specifically designed to affect sports betting.”
“Obviously, I’m preparing for the worst,” he said. “But I’m also preparing to move on if we don’t get a hearing.”
The Supreme Court is scheduled to release its decision at 9:30 a.m. Monday.