DC Think Tank Says Sports Betting Ban Clearly Unconstitutional

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gavel and US Constitution
A Washington, DC think tanks says there are constitutional principles at stake in the New Jersey sports betting case before the US Supreme Court.

In fact, Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) released a paper last week claiming states should have the right to decide for themselves if they want to allow sports betting.

A blog post on the CEI website from author Michelle Minton outlines the contents of the paper.

On the surface, New Jersey merely wants the ability to repeal its own state laws prohibiting sports gambling, which would make the activity legal at casinos and racetracks in the state. At its heart, however, the Court’s decision on the matter could impact every other state’s ability to set their own policies—regardless of the federal government’s wishes — on a wide range of issues from gun and education policy, to marijuana and immigration regulation.

The New Jersey sports betting case

New Jersey lawmakers passed a bill legalizing sports betting at racetracks and casinos in 2011. However, major professional sports leagues around the country filed a lawsuit to stop them.

The leagues won their case, and the courts struck down the bill. After a series of appeals failed, New Jersey tried again in 2014. Lawmakers passed a similar bill legalizing sports betting at racetracks and casinos. However, the law was struck down again after the leagues filed suit.

The state’s appeals were denied again. New Jersey asked the US Supreme Court to hear its case against the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). PASPA is the federal law making sports betting illegal in most states.

In June, the Supreme Court announced it would hear the case. The Supreme Court will hear arguments Dec. 4.

In the meantime, Minton says PASPA has failed in its effort to to stop the spread of sports betting. This evidenced by American Gaming Association (AGA) estimates that Americans wagered $47 million during the 2017 NFL Super Bowl alone. The AGA claims as much as 97 percent of that money was bet illegally.

Sports betting ban unconstitutional

Minton maintains that a federal laws like PASPA violate the US Constitution’s 10th Amendment. This because such laws blocks state governments from changing their own laws as they see fit. The 10th Amendment preserves states’ rights to govern over in-state matters.

Minton and the CEI paper suggests the amendment is an anti-commandeering doctrine preventing the federal government from using states as its puppets.

“Should the Supreme Court rule against New Jersey, it would not only impact that state’s ability to legalize sports betting, it could have ramifications for countless other policies in which state voters wish to diverge from federal policies,” Minton says.

“No matter how one feels about sports betting or any other issue in particular, the importance of preserving the states’ right to make their own decisions on these matters should be painfully clear.”

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Martin Derbyshire

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Martin Derbyshire has more than ten years of experience reporting on the poker, online gambling, and land-based casino industries for a variety of publications including Bluff Magazine, PokerNews, and PokerListings. He has traveled extensively, attending tournaments and interviewing major players in the gambling world.

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