WASHINGTON — A powerful lawmaker and the casino industry have weighed in on the side of the Garden State as the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether to allow New Jersey to legalize sports betting.
Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and the American Gaming Association made their arguments in briefs filed before the high court, which agreed in June to her arguments on whether sports betting should be legalized at racetracks and casinos in New Jersey.
Pallone, D-6th Dist., argued that the federal ban violates the 10th Amendment’s grant of powers to the states.
“By ordering New Jersey to maintain prohibitions on sports gambling that its state legislature has considered and repealed before, Congress is coercing the State of New Jersey to govern according to Congress’s instructions,” wrote Pallone, who has introduced legislation allowing states to legalize sports betting.
The casino trade group filed its own brief, arguing that the federal ban has had “the perverse effect of pushing an enormous market underground by way of federal decree while stamping out state and local efforts to adapt their own laws pursuant to their own citizens’ wishes.”
The gaming group has launched a nationwide campaign to legalize sports wagering, saying $150 billion a year is bet illegally.
The court will be asked to rule on the legality of a 1992 law that banned sports betting in all but four states, Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon.
New Jersey officials have sought ways to get around the law, seeing legal sports betting as a way to help the state’s horse racing industry and Atlantic City’s struggling casinos.
Every effort has been met with opposition from the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the four major professional sports leagues — Major League Baseball, National Football League, National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League — even as some of the leagues have partnered with daily fantasy sports operations.
The Supreme Court will hear an appeal of an August 2016 decision of the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, which ruled, 10-2, that sports betting was “clearly and completely legally prohibited” under federal law.