SCOTUS Feigns Federalism in Sports Betting Decision

Dennis Drazin | Patty Wolfe

Dennis Drazin | Patty Wolfe

The ruling does not legalize sports gambling nationwide, but allows states to make that decision.

"The PASPA provision at issue here-prohibiting state authorization of sports gambling-violates the anticommandeering rule".

Logically, then, if Congress cannot tell state governments not to adopt laws authorizing sports gambling, how can it instruct states not to adopt laws regarding gun control, marijuana legalization and any number of other matters across the political spectrum?

In a 6-3 ruling May 14, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 1992 law that prevented state authorization of sports gambling. Originally, it included a provision to legalize sports wagering, but it was removed.

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Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito delivered the majority opinion, being joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Elena Kagan, and Neil Gorsuch. New Jersey said the Constitution allows Congress to pass laws barring wagering on sports, but Congress can't require states to keep sports gambling prohibitions in place.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the 6-3 majority that a federal law barring state governments from authorizing sports gambling is unconstitutional under the "anti-commandeering doctrine", which holds that Congress may not tell state governments what they can not do. Outside court, however, leaders of all but the National Football League have shown varying degrees of openness to legalized sports gambling.

Meanwhile sports betting has become a huge business, generating at least $150 billion per year nationally. The law designates the Department of Consumer Protection to oversee any new sports betting.

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