Supreme Court strikes down sports gambling restrictions, paving way for betting in N.J.

The U.S. Supreme Court has paved the way for legal sports betting in New Jersey, ruling the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act is an unconstitutional regulation of state government.

The majority opinion issued Monday, as written by Justice Samuel Alito, said, “Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each state is free to act on its own.”

Alito went on to say that, “PASPA ‘regulate(s) state governments’ regulation’ of their citizens … the Constitution gives Congress no such power.”

Under PASPA, sports gambling was legal only in the state of Nevada.

This has been an issue followed closely by the casinos and racetracks in New Jersey, which began under former Gov. Chris Christie and was continued under Gov. Phil Murphy.

The move had been seen as a way to help the state increase revenues as far back as 2011, when a majority of New Jersey residents voted in favor of sports betting in a November referendum.

In 2012, a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll showed a majority, about 58 percent, of New Jerseyans supported sports betting if Congress lifted the ban.

Some say the racetracks, including Monmouth Park and the Meadowlands Racetrack, would benefit more from the move.

Meadowlands owner Jeff Gural told Harness Racing Update that the investment in the court case could pay off when, in December, it looked like the Supreme Court would side with the state.

“We invested heavily in this, with Monmouth Park sharing the legal fees, and it looks like it’s going to pay off. It’s good news. It’s great news, actually,” he said.

The Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas has said the state has seen more than $70 billion in legal sports wagering since 1992, but that is nothing compared to the $380 billion that exists in offshore online betting houses and other unofficial avenues like office pools.

Sen. Robert Menendez said the move would also help the gaming industry in Atlantic City.

“It doesn’t make sense to me not to permit sports betting in controlled, legalized processes,” he said. “To be very honest with you, if you pick up your (phone), you can go offshore and place a bet.”

Right now, the country has no control over all the overseas activity.

“It’s hypocritical for the (national sports) leagues to be in the midst of FanDuel and DraftKings and getting a piece of the action, and saying the sanctity of the sport is being preserved. And now they are going to each state to say they want a cut of the royalty,” he said.

Murphy issued a statement after the ruling, saying:

“I am thrilled to see the Supreme Court finally side with New Jersey and strike down the arbitrary ban on sports betting imposed by Congress decades ago.

“New Jersey has long been the lead advocate in fighting this inherently unequal law, and today’s ruling will finally allow for authorized facilities in New Jersey to take the same bets that are legal in other states in our country.

“Today’s victory would not have been possible without the incredible bipartisan effort from so many in our state, particularly former Gov. Christie and former state Sen. (Ray) Lesniak. I look forward to working with the Legislature to enact a law authorizing and regulating sports betting in the very near future.”

Justice Clarence Thomas, who concurred with the majority, issued his own opinion. Justice Stephen Breyer also issued an opinion, saying he concurred in part and dissented in part.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a dissenting opinion, along with Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and touching on Breyer’s objections.

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