November 3, 2014

What are the odds that SCOTUS will have to decide the constitutionality of Nevada's monopoly on sports gambling?

By Jonathan Wood Attorney

Last term, the Supreme Court considered a petition to hear New Jersey’s challenge to a federal law that forbids any state from liberalizing its sports gambling laws except Nevada. PLF and Cato submitted an amicus brief asking the Court to take up the case to decide an important constitutional question: can Congress arbitrarily discriminate amongst the states and their citizens by giving one state a monopoly over an industry? Unfortunately, the Court declined review.

The ABA Journal has a story on the case and our amicus brief. From the article:

“The legislative history asserts that Congress was concerned about the evils of gambling when it adopted PASPA,” says Jonathan Wood, an attorney with the Sacramento, California-based Pacific Legal Foundation, which filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to decide the issue. “But if it truly had those fears, it should have forbidden the practice everywhere. Instead, it forbids New Jerseyans and most everyone else from doing what those in Nevada are free to do.”

Wood adds: “[The Commerce Clause] doesn’t give Congress the power to balkanize the country by setting different rules by state. Quite to the contrary, the founding fathers intended Congress to use the commerce clause to break down barriers amongst the states and create a national common market.”

“If Congress’ unequal treatment was kosher here, it could likewise set different minimum wages by state, adopt different drug laws for each state, or grant a monopoly over any other industry to a particular state. Each of those, like PASPA, would be improper and a significant threat to federalism,” Wood says.

You can read the rest of the article here.

It looks like the Supreme Court’s decision to deny review may only be a bump in the road. Recently, New Jersey enacted a similar law liberalizing its ban. It was promptly sued by the same leagues and special interest groups that led the last challenge. It looks like the Supreme Court may soon get another chance to consider this issue.

What to read next