NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The U.S. Supreme Court is considering a case that could lead to legal sports betting nationwide.
On Monday, the court heard a legal challenge from the state of New Jersey to a federal law that prevents states from authorizing sports betting.
As CBS2’s Meg Baker reported, the case could have a lasting impact on Governor Chris Christie’s legacy.
The case pits New Jersey and other states against all four major professional sports leagues and the federal government. The outgoing governor went to bat for the state on Monday, challenging the federal law in court.
“It’s important to New Jersey and 49 other states,” Christie said. “This is a state’s rights issue.”
Six years ago, 64 percent of New Jerseyans voted to amend the state constitution to allow sports betting online and at race tracks despite a federal law banning it. Christie says it’s none of Washington’s business, and violates the 10th amendment which protects state’s rights.
“That’s why I think you saw so many governors join as a meek eye on this because they understand today it’s sports gaming and tomorrow it’s something else,” he said.
Sports betting is permitted in Nevada, Delaware, Montana, and Oregon. Those four states were grandfathered in because they had a specific history of licensed gambling.
“If New Jersey were to prevail before the United States Supreme Court, it would open the door not only in New Jersey but potentially for the rest of the country,” said Daniel Wallach, a legal expert on sports gambling law.
The American Gaming Association estimates that Americans illegally wager $150 billion on sports each year.
New Jersey has been trying for years to allow sports betting at racetracks and to help revitalize Atlantic City, WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported.
The casino industry and the horse racing industry in New Jersey are both suffering. There have been several closures of casinos. Couple of race tracks have gone out of business. Sports betting for New Jersey is considered an economic lifeline,” Wallach said.
It’s a case that’s made unlikely allies of the Trump Administration and the major sports leagues including the NFL.
“The leagues are very concerned about a state by state approach. In particular they’re concerned about New Jersey’s approach which would have very limited regulation,” said Greg Stohr, who covers the Supreme Court for Bloomberg.
Stohr said the justices could rule narrowly and allow betting to go forward in New Jersey or they could strike down the federal law entirely.
“If the court takes that ladder step then folks are telling me that we could have 10 or 15 states have legal sports gambling by the end of next year,” Stohr said.
The overwhelming majority of people who spoke with CBS2 are willing to make the legal wager.
“I think the state of New Jersey can use the funds and I believe people will bet no matter what, with a bookie if you want to put it that way,” Avon resident Lou Moran said.
“It could go towards things like roads, fixing schools, things like that,” sports fan Matt Gray said.
The track at Monmouth Park has been set up for sports betting for more than two years. Local representatives called the ban an outdated law, in a time when anyone can download an app and gamble from the comfort of their home.
In court, all four major sports have fought the gambling expansion. They argue it could would hurt the integrity of their games.
A decision is expected by the end of June.
Justice Anthony Kennedy will likely be the swing vote.
“If we are successful here, we could have bets being taken in New Jersey within two weeks of a decision by the court,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said outside court on Monday. “We’re prepared in New Jersey, we’re ready to go.”
If the Supreme Court strikes down the law, giving sports betting the go-ahead, 32 states would likely offer it within five years according to a report by a California research firm.