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Supreme Court Hears Arguments For Sports Betting

Casino Industry Says High Court Was 'Sympathetic' To Issue

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On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments for why a 1992 law known as PASPA, which prohibits traditional sports betting outside of Nevada, is unconstitutional.

During the hour-long hearing, the high court was presented with reasons why the state of New Jersey—along with other interested states—should be able to regulate gambling on its own. The stakes are extremely high, as Americans bet an estimated $150 billion a year on sports, with less than $5 billion coming through regulated sports books in Nevada. Oxford Economics estimates that repealing PASPA and creating a regulated market would create up to $26.6 billion in annual economic impact.

The casino industry was pleased with the hearing on Capitol Hill, which many say will set precedent for states’ rights issues. The concept of federalism is at stake.

“Some on the Court questioned whether or not PASPA’s authors intended to create a system that would theoretically allow for fully unregulated sports betting,” American Gaming Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman said in a statement, pointing out the massive black market that has flourished since the law was enacted. Research group Eilers & Krejcik Gaming estimates that Americans bet as much as $60 billion each year on offshore, unregulated gambling sites.

According to Freeman, the day was a good one for the Garden State. “While it is difficult to predict the outcome of the court, momentum seemed to be in New Jersey’s favor, with several justices seeming sympathetic to the Garden State’s arguments.”

“The hearing brings the future of legal and regulated sports betting in the U.S. one step closer to resolution,” Freeman added. “While the Supreme Court deliberates, AGA will continue our education efforts on Capitol Hill to ensure that our industry is well positioned should the Court’s ruling not address all of our concerns.”

The major sports leagues and the NCAA are on the other side of the issue, as they sued New Jersey to stop it from launching sports books at Atlantic City casinos after the state tried to circumvent PASPA in 2012. The leagues, with the exception of the NFL, are interested in Congress tackling the issue, regardless of the outcome from the Supreme Court.

At least one member of Congress believes a hearing on Capitol Hill is necessary.

“Congress should also turn its attention to sports betting in the United States,” said U.S. Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV). “States are already preparing for a judicial outcome that paves the way for access to sports betting.” Thirteen states introduced sports betting legislation in 2017.

Titus said that it’s “evident” the issue will come before Congress. She said Congress must act to “protect consumers while excluding bad actors from participating in the marketplace.” She has requested that the Energy and Commerce Committee hold a hearing on sports betting.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said after the hearing that Atlantic City is ready. “If we’re successful here, we could have bets being taken in New Jersey within two weeks of a decision," he said. Atlantic City could use the increased business.