The future of legalized gambling in America could be forever altered when the Supreme Court hears arguments in Christie v. NCAA on Monday.
The justices will review New Jersey’s decision to repeal prohibitions on sports betting, which has pitted the Garden State's governor, Chris Christie, against all of America's top sports leagues, from the National Football League to the National Collegiate Athletic Association to the horse racing industry.
Similar to his effort to win the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, Christie has lost repeatedly in the courts, but some legal experts think that is all about to change. Daniel Wallach, shareholder at the Becker & Poliakoff law firm, said Friday that while New Jersey lost six times in various federal courts, "they don't need a .500 record, they don't need to make the All-Star game, they just need to win one time, and this is the ultimate court to prevail in."
"I believe New Jersey will end up with sports betting at Monmouth Park Racetrack and any other participating casinos that want to have it by week one of the NFL season in 2018," Wallach said Friday at the National Press Club. "And according to most predictions, or most historic results of how fast these decisions turn around, we could be looking at sports betting in New Jersey by the Final Four. So, my prediction is a New Jersey victory. I’m just struggling with how sweeping the victory will be."
Andrew Brandt, a former Green Bay Packers executive and Villanova University law professor, said Friday that he thought the increasing popularity of fantasy football had "greased the skids" for the potential legalization of sports betting across America.
"I think we’re at a precipice of time where this is going to happen, obviously depending on which result, but we are at a moment in time where gambling has become evolved in terms of attitudes from sports leagues, sports commissioners," Brandt said Friday at the National Press Club. "I’ve advocated for some kind of a CGO. Every league has a CMO, a COO, a CIO, what about a chief gambling officer? Because they have to be prepared."
Regardless of what outcome the sporting leagues expect at the Supreme Court, the nation's major sporting leagues are expanding into Las Vegas, the center of U.S. gambling. The National Hockey League, which is fighting New Jersey's efforts in the courts, added a team in Las Vegas this year. The National Football League has approved the Oakland Raiders' move to Sin City, too.
Matthew McGill, partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher law firm that will argue for New Jersey on Monday, said his team is looking to defeat the professional sports leagues on more than just the issue of standing.
"We don’t frankly want to win the case on a ground that the leagues are just not injured here," McGill said Friday at the National Press Club. "The issue here is whether Congress can prohibit states from repealing their prohibitions on sports wagering and whether Congress has the power under our Constitution to dictate to states how they must regulate sports wagering when Congress itself has decided to abdicate the field."
New Jersey's actions repealing various prohibitions on sports gambling angered the sports leagues and conflicted with a federal law blocking certain forms of sports gambling. Christie has called the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or PASPA, a "dramatic, unprecedented" takeover of New Jersey's authority, and President Trump's administration asked the Supreme Court to reject the case.
The justices agreed to hear the case anyway, and their ruling could affect a wide swath of public policy controversies. Elbert Lin, former West Virginia solicitor general who has supported Christie's crusade, said Friday at the National Press Club that a Supreme Court decision for New Jersey could be "potentially very far-reaching" and affect other issues including immigration, firearm control, medical marijuana, and occupational licensing.
If part of PASPA remains intact, however, Wallach said he thinks a battle will play out between the American Gaming Association and the professional sports leagues over the limitations on sports betting.
Sara Slane, American Gaming Association senior vice president, said Friday that her organization has never put all of its eggs in one basket at the Supreme Court.
"We've got a good back-up plan, we'll be prepared to hit the ground running in a congressional fashion [if New Jersey loses]," Slane said Friday at the National Press Club. "I certainly don’t want to be in a battle royale with anyone and definitely not the leagues, which is why we’ve been trying to work with, in concert, behind-the-scenes in making sure we’re addressing any of their concerns, any of the issues, really educating them about our industry, how heavily regulated we are and really getting to the crux of what they would want to see at a federal level."
Following Monday's "battle royale" over sports gambling, the justices on Tuesday will hear a case involving the tension between free speech and gay rights, Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.