ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey officials say the U.S. Supreme Court should strike down a ban on sports betting in all but four states because it wrongly forces states to enforce a regulation that Congress wants.
The high court will hear New Jersey's argument this fall that the ban is not legal because it exceeds the authority of Congress. The state has been trying for nearly a decade to legalize sports betting and grab a share of the estimated $150 billion that is bet illegally on sports each year.
After being rebuffed in its efforts to regulate legal sports betting, New Jersey tried a different tactic: repealing its regulations regarding sports betting, leaving no law in place at all.
The question to be decided by the justices is this: Does a federal statute that prohibits modification or repeal of state-law prohibitions on private conduct impermissibly usurp the regulatory power of states?
Major professional and collegiate sports leagues oppose New Jersey's effort to legalize sports betting, saying it would threaten the perceived integrity of the games.
In filings with the high court made Tuesday evening, New Jersey took aim at a law called the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 that forbids state-authorized sports gambling in all but four states that met a 1991 deadline to legalize it: Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon. Nevada is the only state to allow single-game wagering.
"To meet Congress's objective of forestalling further legalization of sports wagering, PASPA directs States to maintain in effect their state-law prohibitions on the activity," New Jersey wrote in its filing. "Our constitutional structure does not permit Congress to regulate interstate commerce in that manner. Under our Constitution, if Congress wishes for sports wagering to be illegal, it must make the activity unlawful itself. It cannot compel states to do so."
Daniel Wallach, an attorney in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and an expert in sports law, predicted New Jersey stands a decent chance of success before the high court.
"Congress can't prohibit states from decriminalizing activity within their borders, which is the whole crux of this case," he said. "More likely than not, New Jersey winds up with some sort of sports betting when this case is done, whether it's New Jersey alone, or all the states."
New Jersey voters passed a non-binding referendum to allow sports betting in 2011.
The four major pro sports leagues and the NCAA sued the state in 2012, after Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed a sports betting law.
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