Former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson has brought New Jersey’s fight to legalize in-state sports gambling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Governor Chris Christie first attempted to legalize sports betting in New Jersey in 2012, but when the courts struck down that law, he signed a new 2014 law that allowed limited sports betting at casinos and racetracks. However, this past summer, the Third Circuit held that even this limited allowance of sports gambling violates the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), a Congressionally enacted law that makes it unlawful for States to “authorize by law” gambling on sports. In both cases, it was the NCAA and four major sports leagues that took the lead in striking down the New Jersey law.
In Olsen’s petition to SCOTUS, he attacks PASPA itself as unconstitutional, grounding his argument in the Tenth Amendment’s anti-commandeering doctrine, which the Supreme Court has interpreted to mean Congress cannot “commandeer the legislative process of the States by directly compelling them to enact and enforce a federal regulatory program.” According to Olson, PASPA constitutes a “federal takeover of New Jersey’s legislative apparatus” in violation of the Constitution, and presents a direct threat to state sovereignty.
Currently, only Nevada is completely exempted from PASPA, and three other states have limited exemptions. If SCOTUS rules in New Jersey’s favor, there could be a wave of sports gambling legalization across the country.
Jennifer Marr is an Online Highlight Editor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current second year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2018).