New Jersey Sports-Betting Law Draws U.S. High Court Inquiry

  • Court seeks U.S. input on bid to allow bets at tracks, casinos
  • Christie, lawmakers trying to revive state’s legalization law

The U.S. Supreme Court offered a glimmer of hope for a New Jersey law that would legalize sports gambling at casinos and racetracks, seeking input from the federal government on Governor Chris Christie’s bid to revive the statute.

In a request that ultimately will be answered by Donald Trump’s incoming administration, the court Tuesday asked the U.S. solicitor general’s office for advice on the appeal of a federal appeals court ruling that invalidated the law.

The measure is being challenged by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball.

Christie and his allies say the law would reinvigorate the state’s flagging gambling industry and generate as much as $1 billion in bets in the first year alone. Nevada is currently the only state where single-game wagering is legal.

New Jersey enacted the law in 2014 after an earlier version was struck down in court. The latest measure repealed New Jersey’s existing prohibition on sports gambling, though only at tracks and casinos.

Christie and the lawmakers argue at the Supreme Court that the state is being unconstitutionally forced to prohibit sports gambling. They point to a 1992 Supreme Court decision that said the federal government may not "commandeer" a state’s regulatory power.

The Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a 10-2 vote that the measure ran afoul of a 1992 federal law that outlaws sports gambling in most of the country. Among the judges in the majority was Maryanne Trump Barry, the sister of the president-elect. The New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association is also appealing the ruling.

The case might be of particular interest to Trump, formerly a major figure in the gambling business in New Jersey’s Atlantic City. The last of the casinos that bore his name, the Trump Taj Mahal, closed last year. In addition, Trump used to own the New Jersey Generals of the now-defunct United States Football League.

The cases are Christie v. NCAA, 16-476, and New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association v. NCAA, 16-477.

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