The case — Christie vs. NCAA — has the potential to allow for legalized sports betting in New Jersey, and possibly across the country with the right verdict. And it appears that a majority of justices might be on New Jersey’s side, believing that the federal sports wagering ban in unconstitutional.
We’ll likely still have to wait for months for a verdict, however, sometime in the first half of 2018.
But when this sports betting case found its way to the nation’s highest court, what were the most interesting moments from the hour of oral arguments? Here is a rundown:
That it happened at all
Christie vs. NCAA bucked the odds for even reaching the Supreme Court.
- The state of New Jersey had lost in federal court a total of five times since 2012, in two different iterations of the case.
- The Supreme Court only takes a small percentage of the cases that are presented to it.
- The US Solicitor General — often referred to as the Tenth Justice — told the Supreme Court not to take the case.
That’s why the fact that we even got to oral arguments is borderline miraculous.
Gov. Chris Christie‘s name appears on the case. After all, he’s the one who signed the New Jersey law that attempted to legalize sports betting in the state.
So Christie, as the listed plaintiff on the appeal, was well within his rights to appear in front of the high court along with counsel. He was in the courtroom at the side of attorney and former US Solicitor General Ted Olson.
Never one to miss a chance to look good in front of the press, Christie also held a press conference on the Supreme Court steps afterwards, predicting victory vs. NJ.
12-year-olds betting on sports?
The Chief Justice of the court, John Roberts, had what was certainly the most memorable exchange of the oral arguments.
New Jersey — which passed a partial repeal of its sports betting prohibition in attempt to get around the federal ban — has at times played with a full repeal.
That’s something that both sides and lower courts have agreed would be possible under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), even if politically unlikely.
Roberts brought it up, leading to this humorous exchange with deputy US solicitor general John Wall:
ROBERTS: What if the repeal — what if the repeal is across the board, no exceptions?
WALL: If New Jersey just repeals its prohibitions, we have said we don’t have a problem with that.
ROBERTS: Well, is that serious? You have no problem if there’s no prohibition at all and anybody can engage in any kind of gambling they want, a 12-year-old can come into the casino and — you’re not serious about that.
WALL: I — I’m very serious about it, Mr. Chief Justice….
Agreeing with justices is a good idea
There was a rare moment of levity in the Supreme Court, when Olson and Justice Stephen Breyer interacted.
Breyer was perhaps the most vocal justice in supporting Olson and New Jersey’s argument throughout the day. That came through loud and clear in this exchange:
JUSTICE BREYER: Okay. And then - now, I’m seeing this, I think. Is this your argument? And don’t just say yes if it isn’t, please.
The crowd laughs, and then Breyer outlines what he believed was Olson’s case, and:
OLSON: I wish I had said that myself, Justice Breyer.
More laughter ensued, which certainly doesn’t happen every day in the Supreme Court.
Weed vs. sports betting
Marijuana even came up in the case, as Justice Sonia Sotomayor, brought up a hot-button topic. Many states have legalized the sale of marijuana.
Olson tried to point out what’s different between the laws that deal with the two things considered vices:
SOTOMAYOR: So why don’t we -- why don’t we legalize — this is a hypothetical — marijuana because all — and all drugs, because there’s a rampant market out there for those drugs, but we’ve made a policy choice that we don’t want the state involved in promoting that type of enterprise.
OLSON: And the federal --
SOTOMAYOR: Why is this any different?
OLSON: The Congress of the United States enacted laws with respect to marijuana and with respect to other substances. And that’s — that’s in play right now because various states have done various different things. But we have no question here that what Congress intended to do was pass a law, would look at the statute, as I said before, the - the statute says it’s an act to prohibit sports gambling under state law, not under federal law.