In a 6-3 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday overturned a federal law that barred most states from legalizing sports betting.
The case opens an opportunity for states to re-examine their position on legalization of sports gambling—something Congress banned in 1992 under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, known as PASPA. In finding PASPA unconstitutional, the court reaffirms the federal government cannot tell state legislatures what laws to pass, repeal, or keep on the books.
According to the decision written by Justice Samuel Alito, Congress can pass legislation allowing the federal government to “regulate sports gambling directly” if it chooses to do so. However, he stated, “if it elects not to do so, each State is free to act on its own.”
“Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution,” he explained. “PASPA is not.”
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who originally filed the lawsuit, quickly touted the decision as a win for “the rights of states and their people to make their own decisions” over Twitter. Current Gov. Phil Murphy also released a statement, saying he was “thrilled” with the victory.
“New Jersey has long been the lead advocate in fighting this inherently unequal law, and today’s ruling will finally allow for authorized facilities in New Jersey to take the same bets that are legal in other states in our country,” Murphy said.
The case, Governor of New Jersey v. the National Collegiate Athletic Association, stems from an effort by the Garden State to legalize sports gambling. Professional sports leagues and the NCAA claimed this was a violation of PASPA, which effectively barred most states from legalizing gambling on sports by forbidding states from any effort “to sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license, or authorize by law or compact” sports betting.
Therefore, New Jersey tried a different tact: It simply repealed its laws barring sports gambling. The central question before the Supreme Court was whether a federal law could stop a legislature from repealing laws they have on the books.