The US Supreme Court will today commence oral arguments in a battle royale over the future of sports betting in the US, pitting over 20 states against some of Americas biggest sporting leagues.
Known as Christie vs NCAA, the case will see the Supreme Court justices review an August 2016 ruling by the Philadelphia-based 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals that an earlier 2014 New Jersey statute permitting sports betting at casinos and racetracks violated PASPA (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act 1992).
On one side of the case is the state of New Jersey and the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horseman’s Association, while on the other are some of the US' biggest sporting associations, including the NCAA, the NFL, the NHL and Major League Baseball, who have all rallied to the defence of PASPA.
Twenty states across the US have filed amicus briefs in support of the New Jersey appeal, calling for an end to the ban on sports betting. Attorney Generals from the states of Virginia, Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming are all supporting New Jersey.
Governors from states including Maryland, Kentucky and North Dakota have voiced their support, with the American Gaming Association and National Indian Gaming Association also choosing to side with New Jersey. The oral argument process gives the states' lawyers the chance to express these briefs directly to the nine Supreme Court justices, while also allowing the NCAA and its representatives to state their opposing case.
At its heart, the states contention is that the Federal government cannot ‘commandeer’ the rights of US states and as such cannot force them to ban sports betting in their respected states as this would be unconstitutional.
However, this is a battle between the rights of states and the federal government as expressed in the tenth amendment of the United States constitution, which states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” It is an age-old debate in the US, Federalism vs Anti-Federalism, a debate which goes back to the very founding of the United States.
The Supreme Court cannot agree a decision on the case immediately, with its next scheduled decision date being 22 January, however this has not stopped a number of gaming industry firms from making the first moves into sports betting markets.
Many others are readying themselves to acquire companies which they hope will give them the potential to expand into this market, should the court decide to repeal PASPA. With a potential $15bn sports betting market at stake, governments from many states have also chosen to position legislation allowing them to implement sports betting in their jurisdictions.