The American Gaming Association, the lobbying arm for the casino industry, has been at the front of the fight to end the federal ban on sports betting, and on Tuesday filed a brief with the US Supreme Court in support of New Jersey and its upcoming case. The highest court in the land agreed in June to hear the Garden State’s appeal of a ruling made by the Third Circuit Court in August of 2016.
While both sides ready to present arguments to the Supreme Court, the AGA lent its continuing support on the matter with the 26-page legal document. The group has vehemently disputed the notion that opening up the sports betting market in all US states would be a detriment. Four states, Nevada, Oregon, Delaware, and Montana, are the only ones allowed to offer sports betting, though only Nevada has sportsbooks.
The other 46 states are prohibited from doing so by the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) passed by Congress in 1992. The AGA has long said the law is outdated and “prevents States and tribal sovereign governments states from repealing or amending laws that their citizens no longer support.”
Goal to Repeal PASPA
The brief cites three points as to why sports betting should be allowed across the board. The first is the argument that it’s a states’ rights issue, and the federal ban violates the 10th Amendment, which says the federal government has only those powers specifically granted by the Constitution, and everything else is to be decided on a state-by-state basis by each state alone.
Secondly, the AGA brief contends that PASPA has actually had the opposite effect of its intention. It notes that the law has created a thriving illegal sports wagering underground, which they estimate pulls in approximately $150 billion annually.
“Earlier this year, Americans bet an estimated $15 billion on the Super Bowl and NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament alone, and 97% of those bets were made illegally,” the group’s brief reads.
The final topic presents the economic advantages states would receive if they chose to make sports gambling legal. The brief mentions a study conducted by Oxford Economics that said it would generate $26 billion in economic output and bring in up to $5.3 billion in tax revenue. An estimated 152,000 jobs would be created as well, according to the study.
Odds Unknown on Court’s Leaning
When New Jersey approved the bill to bring sports betting to the Garden State, and Governor Chris Christie signed it, the four major professional sports organizations and the National College Athletic Administration immediately filed a suit to stop it. When the appeal was denied, few gave the plaintiffs any chance of ending up on the Supreme Court’s calendar.
The odds looked even bleaker for the case after US Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall recommended to the nine justices that it wasn’t worth their time. The SG is often considered the 10th justice, because the court usually agrees with whatever the sitting SG suggests, so it was a shock when the court agreed to hear the case.
If the court decides against allowing legalization, AGA CEO Geoff Freeman believes legislation will be introduced in Congress to strike down PAPSA regardless.
In a conference call on Tuesday, he stated: “It is closer than any point in the last 25 years.” He also pointed out that 18 states are filing their own briefs in support.