At a time when Congress has launched an effort to scrap a 1992 law that prevents most states from legalizing wagering on sports, another branch of the government could get the job done more quickly.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that challenges the federal prohibition on expanded betting on sporting events. The case, arising from efforts by New Jersey to enact sports wagering, will be presented as early as October 2017, with a decision coming in the weeks or months thereafter.
While the decision doesn’t mean New Jersey will win, it’s an encouraging sign. New Jersey had lost at every step of the process, and a decision by the Supreme Court not to hear the case would have ended it with an “L” for pro-gambling interests. A victory remains possible, and some will predict that the current makeup of the Supreme Court points to a win.
The argument against the law flows from the notion that states should be permitted to decide whether to allow gambling on sports. The 1992 law was written in a way that allowed places like Nevada to continue to permit sports wagering, forbidding other states who didn’t already allow this form of gambling to join in.
The development puts the NFL in an awkward spot. At a time when it has embraced Las Vegas by allowing the Raiders to eventually move there, many think the league also secretly longs for the day when fans can play the odds via NFL.com and/or each of the various team websites, with the league acting as the bookie at most, middleman at a minimum, for widespread wagering. To get there, federal law first must change, and then the states must embrace betting, one by one.
The NFL had no comment on the news of a new effort in Congress to scrap the federal law prohibiting sports wagering. PFT has submitted a request for comment to the league regarding the Supreme Court’s decision, which on the surface will be met with a profane muttering of frustration but which at a deeper level could prompt a profane shout of joy, thanks to the many billions the league will earn every year if/when it can finally get a piece of all of the money that currently changes hands illegally by people who bet on sports, regardless of what the law allows.