UNITED STATES—The Supreme Court recently overturned congressional legislation that prohibited individual states from legalizing sports betting, in a story covered by Real Money Action, here.
The 6-3 ruling was predicated on the view that Congress overstepped its authority in passing such a law. Congress does have the authority to prohibit sports betting, and socially conservative legislatures still hope to do so, though they are not expected to succeed. However, Congress does not have the power to dictate what legislation the states may or may not pass on their own. Writing for the majority, Justice Alito also stipulated that the court itself may not rule on the legality of sports betting per se.
“The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make,” said Alito. “Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each state is free to act on its own.”
The plaintiff in the case was the state of New Jersey, which had bucked the federal legislation by passing laws legalizing sports betting. The federal government challenged New Jersey and won in the lower courts, but ultimately the state has won the right to decide for itself.
New Jersey wasted no time in taking advantage of their victory. By taking the initiative to establish legalized betting as quickly as possible, they can create a situation in which the toothpaste is out of the tube. As with legalized marijuana, the federal government will have a difficult task if it attempts to remove freedoms from the citizens of states once they have learned to enjoy them.
New legislation was quickly passed and Governor Phil Murphy signed it into law on June 11th.
Murphy opined: “Today, we’re finally making the dream of legalized sports betting a reality for New Jersey,” a move that will “attract new business and new fans, boosting their own long-term financial prospects.” He concluded that “this is the right move for New Jersey and it will strengthen our economy.” Hopefully, Murphy is correct, as New Jersey spent $9 million litigating the case.
Jersey punters will be able to make legal wagers in a regulated environment at racetracks, casinos and online. The first wagers are set to be accepted at Monmouth Park, a racetrack. The sportsbook at Monmouth will be run by William Hill, and a full menu of bets will be offered right off the bat, with games and odds closely resembling those at the Nevada operations of William Hill.
Options will include wagering on The World Cup, NASCAR, The WNBA, Golf (including player vs. player matchups), Baseball and Canadian Football.
All at once, the people of New Jersey have full access to Nevada-style sports betting, minus perhaps, the spectacular sportsbooks with giant TVs and luxurious seating. Hopefully, additional states will follow their lead, rather than going with over-regulated implementation or allowing the pro sports leagues to charge fans for betting, as they would like to do.