SCOTUS Feigns Federalism in Sports Betting Decision

Heather Diaz
May 17, 2018

The Surpeme Court struck down a 26-year-old federal ban on sports betting on Monday, allowing states to decide whether they want to allow legal wagers on football, basketball, baseball, hockey and other games.

The Reverend Mark Creech of the Christian Action League said in a statement released Tuesday that he believed the Supreme Court's decision allows states to engage in "the fleecing of their own citizens".

The New Jersey senate then revised the law.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the 6-3 majority that a federal law barring state governments from authorizing sports gambling is unconstitutional under the "anti-commandeering doctrine", which holds that Congress may not tell state governments what they can not do. They had sued New Jersey in 2012 when the state adopted a constitutional amendment to legalize sports betting despite the federal law.

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"We will soon see an avalanche of pressure from multinational corporations to legalize sports betting at casinos and racetracks around the country", said Travis Wussow, general counsel and vice president for public policy of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Legislators are considering what new rules and regulations are necessary to protect consumers and what role those sovereign nations should play.

Originally, it included a provision to legalize sports wagering, but it was removed.

The ruling moves the "anti-commandeering doctrine" more into the mainstream and moves some of the most controversial subjects of this controversial time from Congress into state legislatures. Casino interests argue that Nevada does just fine regulating gambling and flagging suspicious behavior without sending money directly to the leagues. Further, the Court's invalidation of PASPA does not affect existing federal restrictions on interstate and internet sports betting, including the Federal Wire Act. Some have authorized commercial casinos to open sports books, while some will offer sports betting products through their state lotteries. However, Justice Alito's opinion cryptically notes in dicta that the Federal Wire Act and other similar federal laws, "apply only if the underlying gambling is illegal under state law".

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