No Supreme Court sports betting ban decision was issued today regarding New Jersey’s appeal of the federal prohibition, as many in the industry had anticipated.

Supreme Court sports betting PASPA

If the Supreme Court rejects the current federal sports betting ban and overturns PASPA, March Madness NCAA games might see legal betting outside of Nevada by this time next year. (Image: USA TODAY Sports)

Last week, online sportsbook BetDSI’s odds on when the SCOTUS would deliver its ruling had March 5 the favorite at +100. The line implied a 50 percent chance that today would be the day Americans learned whether gambling on sports would continue to be prohibited in all but four US states.

Dates with Destiny

The Supreme Court typically releases opinions on Mondays, when the justices are in session, but not hearing arguments. The next non-argument session will be April 2, followed by April 30, May 14, May 21, and May 29. Four Mondays in June are also non-argument days, before the court adjourns at the end of that month.

New Jersey lawyers are challenging the constitutionality of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). The federal statute, implemented in 1992, made gambling on pro and collegiate athletics illegal in all but Nevada, Delaware, Montana, and Oregon, as those four states had legal sports wagering at the time.

The Garden State argues that anti-commandeering interpretations of the Tenth Amendment make it illegal for the federal government to force certain states to adhere to regulations while exempting others, allowing some states to benefit from rights that others do not have.

The appeal, which was heard December 4, has been called “most important federalism case the Supreme Court will have heard in many, many years” by gaming law expert Daniel Wallach.

The Tenth Amendment states that “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, or to the people.”

The End Is Near…Maybe

Those who attended the Supreme Court PASPA hearing in December mostly opined that the majority of justices favored the plaintiff’s argument that states should be left to determine their own sports betting laws, and not have the federal government forbid some states, while allowing others to offer sports wagering.

PredictIt, an online exchange where players buy and sell shares on the likelihood of political outcomes, immediately offered up ponderings for those following the case. The day arguments were made, “Yes” shares of PredictIt’s market “Will the Supreme Court rule against federal sports betting ban” went from 74 cents to 83 cents. 

The market has been quite active over the last 24 hours, with many bullish that the Supreme Court will come down on New Jersey’s side. “Yes” shares have gone from 86 cents to 92 cents. Should SCOTUS rule against PASPA, each “Yes” share will be paid $1. BetDSI has the odds on allowing states to legalize sports betting at -130, or implied odds of 56.5 percent.

What Are the Possible Outcomes? 

After New Jersey lawmakers passed their own sports betting bill, the NCAA and NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL (“Big Four”) sued the Garden State. Lower federal courts have repeatedly ruled against New Jersey’s gambling law. In response, the state passed legislation that repealed existing federal sports wagering prohibitions.

The Supreme Court justices have several options to consider, which include:

  • Ruling that New Jersey’s “law” is illegal, and affirming that the state has no legal grounds to repeal federal regulations.
  • Deciding that PASPA would remain enacted in other states, but that New Jersey has every right to repeal such federal statutes placed on it, due to the Commerce Clause, a regulation that requires Congress to legislate uniformly.
  • Determining that PASPA violates the Tenth Amendment and fully repeal the ban. It should be noted that the Supreme Court has cited the Tenth Amendment just four times in its 229-year history in overturning federal laws. If the justices do go down this legal path, according to Wallace, it could be precedent-setting for other states’ rights issues.