AGA, 20 States Support New Jersey’s SCOTUS Appeal on Sports Betting

The American Gaming Association has joined 20 states in filing briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting New Jersey’s appeal to offer sports betting

The American Gaming Association has joined with 20 states in filing briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of New Jersey’s attempts to offer sports betting in the state.

New Jersey has made several appeals as courts have repeatedly struck down its attempts to overthrow the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which bans sports betting in all but four states. New Jersey’s latest attempt seeks to decriminalize sports betting by allowing unregulated sports betting at casinos and racetracks.

The move was struck down in federal court and at the federal appeals level, but the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case this fall.

Two separate amicus brief filings were made to the court—one by the association and one by a group of states led by West Virginia and its attorney general, Patrick Morrissey. The briefs ask the court to strike down PASPA.

Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the AGA, said the brief filed by the group of states shows that the move to offer legalized sports betting is growing in the country.

“State legislatures are beginning to hear the message,” he said in a press release. “Currently, 14 states have already introduced sports betting bills or resolutions in anticipation of legal sports betting that could be coming soon. Eighteen other states have joined West Virginia in filing a separate amicus brief to the Supreme Court. We’re thrilled to see these 18 states join West Virginia, and we think that will go a long way with the court,” he continued.

The number of state attorneys general or governors signing onto the brief has now grown to 20.

Freeman said the states involved represent a diverse sample of the country and includes states that both have and don’t have casino gambling.

Among those are Utah, which currently does not allow casino gambling in any form. Analysts say the state’s move is made in an attempt to protect state’s rights in deciding gambling and other regulatory issues. In previous cases, New Jersey has argued that PASPA infringes on its right to regulate gambling within its own borders.

Lisa Soronen, executive director of the State and Local Legal Center, which helped prepare the West Virginia brief, told that it is common for states to join Supreme Court cases dealing with Congress commandeering state’s rights.

“Even if a case like this doesn’t seem that relevant to a particular state, the commandeering concept of the federal government coming in and telling states how to have their laws is something that every state cares about deeply,” she explained. “And even if a case doesn’t affect you today, the issue could affect you tomorrow.”

Soronen said the West Virginia brief does mention sports betting, but focuses more on issues of federalism and states’ rights.

“We focus a good deal of time in the brief on problems associated with the federal government passing any sort of law in any of context that could freeze state law in time,” she said according to the report. “If the Supreme Court approves PASPA’s process—which effectively forces states to freeze their gambling laws in time—then the federal government can go on and do this in other contexts.”

The AGA’s brief also adds the argument that the federal ban is simply fueling an illegal sports betting market valued at $15 billion.

“Regulation of sports betting needs to be accomplished in a sensible manner that promotes, rather than thwarts, the strictures and principles of federalism,” the brief states. “PASPA has thus had the perverse effect of pushing an enormous market underground by way of federal decree while stamping out state and local efforts to adapt their own laws pursuant to their own citizens’ wishes.”

The state supporting the West Virginia brief are: Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wyoming and West Virginia plus the governors of Kentucky and Maryland.

Meanwhile, hoping to mollify tribes who believe that tribes, not states, should be in the driver’s seat when it comes to legalizing sports betting, the AGA has watered down states’ rights arguments in its website advocating repeal of the federal ban on sports wagering, reports Dave Palermo for

While largely diluting the states’ rights aspect of repealing the ban, the website has beefed up the Indian sovereignty aspect.

It now reads: “Advocate for repealing the failed federal sports betting ban and granting states and tribal sovereign governments the ability to determine how to address sports betting.” The section that describes who makes up the coalition that seeks legalization has also been edited to say that it includes “tribal sovereign governments.”

One section that was deleted had listed as a goal: “Defer to states regarding the desirability of regulating sports betting as all forms of casino wagering.” For tribes that operate under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) such a statement is like waving a red flag in front of a bull.

The changes came after several gaming tribes, including nine members of the AGA, criticized the website.

Legal Sports Report quoted Robert Martin, chairman of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, which belongs to AGA: “I think the AGA will confer more closely with member tribes.”

Many gaming tribes were initially critical of the decision of nine of the larger gaming tribes to join the AGA’s coalition seeking repeal. As Legal Sports Report wrote: “Sources said NIGA board members had not seen the AGA website when they voted to join the group. ‘They’re (AGA) clearly promoting legalization of sports betting and they want to turn it over to the states,’ a high-ranking tribal official who requested anonymity said of the original website language.”

National Indian Gaming Association Chairman Ernie Stevens has stated several times that his group joined the coalition to monitor its activities, not to actively work towards lifting the ban.

Some tribes support tribes operating sports wagering even in states that choose not to legalize it, should the federal ban be lifted.

Many tribes are leery of the effects that sports betting legalization would have on existing tribal state gaming compacts, which often give tribes a monopoly on gaming in exchange for agreement to pay taxes on the profits. Twenty-eight states have Indian gaming.

Meanwhile a bill authored by Rep. Frank Pallone that would make tribes and states co-equals in sports betting jurisdiction is being distributed, but has not yet been introduced. It spells out that the status sports betting would not interfere with existing tribal state gaming compacts or impact IGRA.