In 2017, a New Jersey case that involved the legality of sports betting was granted certiorari by the United States Supreme Court. See, e.g., Larry Gibbs, “Odds, Integrity And Preparations for the Supreme Court To Rule On Sports Betting,” Legal Sports Report, Mar. 5, 2018, at https://www.legalsportsreport.com/18925/sports-betting-odds-in-scotus-and-future/ (last visited Mar. 28, 2018). In response to what they hope will be a favorable ruling, entities ranging from the state of Illinois to the National Basketball Association (NBA) have come up with plans for implementing sports betting and generating revenue. This article addresses some of the legal factors involved in the Supreme Court case and the role that expert witnesses play in the equation.
There are two conversations taking place among legal and sports analysts. The first involves predicting how the Supreme Court will resolve the issues in the case it’s considering, and the second entails possible actions that will arise if the Court issues a ruling that favors legalized sports betting.
(1). The Supreme Court’s Decision:
In the view of commentators who review the legal components of athletic events and activity, it may be hard to predict how the Court will choose to dispose of the case addressing whether sports betting should be made legal. See, e.g., id. As some analysts have pointed out, if precedent is any guide, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has issued somewhat mixed decisions on the matter, with the state of New Jersey suffering defeat when it argued for legalized betting. See id. New Jersey passed a law to allow for sports betting within its borders, but that law never went into effect because of repeated legal challenges, including a lost appeal in 2016. See, e.g.id.
In order to help reach its decision on whether states should be permitted to legalize and regulate sports betting, the Supreme Court may rely on a number of expert witnesses’ evidence. Those with expertise in matters of states’ rights, the Constitution, and federalism have weighed in during oral arguments and in briefs submitted to the Court. See, e.g., Dustin Gouker, “The Aftermath Of The NJ Sports Betting Case: Trying To Count SCOTUS Justices’ Votes,” Legal Sports Report, Dec. 5, 2017, at https://www.legalsportsreport.com/16809/scotus-sports-betting-case-votes/ (last visited Mar. 28, 2018). In addition to constitutional law experts, experts in matters such as athletics and sports regulation, issues of revenue and taxation, and gambling have also made arguments to assist the Court in its ultimate determination. Many media outlets anticipate a favorable ruling for those who wish to legalize and regulate sports betting, which has prompted states, individuals, and business entities to make plans regarding how they wish to react to such a ruling. See, e.g., Nina Totenberg, “Odds Drop On Sports-Betting Ban As Supreme Court Hears New Jersey Case.” NPR, Dec. 4, 2017.
(2). The Legal Aftermath of a Favorable Ruling:
From Massachusetts to Illinois, a number of states are crafting plans to regulate and tax sports betting in the event that the Supreme Court decides to legalize such gambling. See, e.g., Mark Arsenault, “Sports gambling case has Massachusetts casinos at the ready,” Boston Globe, Jan. 1, 2018; See also Bob Susnjara, “Place your bets? Illinois preparing for legal sports wagering,” The Daily Herald, Mar. 19, 2018. Professional sports associations, such as the NBA and Major League Baseball (MLB), are also making plans for what taxes and/or fees they would assess if sports betting becomes legally permissible. See, e.g., Larry Gibbs, supra. If the Supreme Court allows for states to regulate sports betting, the entities making their plans will require the assistance of consulting experts. Those who specialize in financial matters will be of great utility and can help agents determine how to maximize revenues and what fees to assess if gambling is allowed. Experts in athletics, sports law, and gambling can help planners to try to minimize some of the prospective harms of gambling addictions and related issues and can tailor plans to a particular type of sport and league. In addition, because approval of sports betting by the Supreme Court would have sweeping implications for the nation, those planning to promote sports gambling must also guard against litigation which may arise in response to legalized betting. Expert witnesses may play an important role in helping potential plaintiffs and defendants to address the legal fallout from legalization, and their guidance may determine to what extent regulations on sports betting are successful.
Many analysts and news outlets have predicted that the Supreme Court will decide to permit states to legalize and regulate sports betting. See, e.g., Nina Totenberg, supra. A great deal of money is at stake, and states that face seemingly insurmountable debts may see legalized sports gambling as a lucrative source of revenue. See, e.g., Larry Gibbs, supra. If such gambling is made legal, those who wish to regulate and profit from it should, according to one sports law analyst, “invest in the best research about the largely unknown US sports wagering market and especially its customer base. In working with casino executives, they can create ways to work collaboratively first, instead of making plans to compete and cut up the money pie.” In order to accomplish this, states and other entities interested in gambling will require the assistance of expert witnesses. Experts may be important consultants for the planning stages and may also be the ones who ultimately sway the Supreme Court. Should the Court allow sports betting, such witnesses will be valuable to help craft policy and address adjudicators in the event litigation ensues.