WASHINGTON (CN) – With the United States poised to see its first casino mogul in the Oval Office, experts are weighing in about the sports-betting law that New Jersey wants revived by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Still one vote shy of a full bench after the February death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court is likely to announce whether it will consider the case weeks before Donald Trump’s swearing-in.
A writ of certiorari is just one factor in play for the law’s future, however, given Trump’s past vested interest in casinos.
“In the ’90s Trump pushed hard for New Jersey to legalize [sports gambling], so we know how he feels about it,” Daniel Wallach, a constitutional and gaming law attorney at Becker & Poliakoff, said in an interview.
The biggest legal obstacle New Jersey faces in its attempts to legalize sports betting is PAPSA, short for the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a federal law that prohibits sports gambling in casinos in all but a handful of states.
If he doesn’t sign legislation nullifying PASPA, Wallach said, Trump could simply appoint an attorney general who refuses to enforce the statute.
Still, short-term relief for New Jersey would be minimal -- “this will be a two- or three-year endeavor,” Wallach added.
Another iron that New Jersey has in the fire is the possible allegiance Trump owes Gov. Chris Christie for his early endorsement in the Republican primary.
Restarting the conversation on sports betting would be unlikely in the early days of the next administration, but Trump or Christie’s voices could come up when it does, said Chris Soriano, a gaming-law attorney with the firm Duane Morris.
Soriano noted that PASPA was written before there were online gambling options available.
“It’s really a matter of whether it’s time to have this national discussion about where we go with sports betting,” he added.
Christie is a Republican but New Jersey Democrats have been supportive of sports gambling as well, seeing it as a salve to heal foundering racetracks and Atlantic City casinos. Despite in-state popularity, sports gambling has faced uphill battle made tougher by a loss this summer in the Third Circuit.
Courts have been unfavorable toward New Jersey’s argument that its 2014 state law repealed restrictions on sports betting in casinos and racetracks, rather than authorizing the practice in violation of PASPA.
Allies of the state in the battle include five states — West Virginia, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Wisconsin — that filed a Nov. 14 brief, urging the Supreme Court to take up the case.
The American Gaming Association filed a similar brief, with a Trump-focused statement by association president Geoff Freeman.
"As President-elect Donald Trump has acknowledged, illegal sports betting is a thriving industry," Freeman said. "The United States Supreme Court should consider New Jersey's important claims and allow all states to address the serious problems associated with illegal sports betting."
Given that the en banc Third Circuit was largely unified in its decision, and there is no circuit court split, experts predict that the Supreme Court will not take the case.