In most courtroom dramas, there’s typically that poignant period when both sides wait for the jury to return with a verdict.
Stretch out that scenario to multiple months, and that sums up the level of anticipation for New Jersey, the professional sports leagues and NCAA — and by extension, an ever-growing number of other states – from early December to the present.
Oral Arguments Seemed to Favor New Jersey
Oral arguments in front of the Supreme Court for Murphy vs. NCAA (formerly Christie vs. NCAA) unfolded back on Dec. 4, 2017. Many legal experts weighing in post-hearing felt the proceedings went decidedly in favor of the Garden State.
Those assessments were ultimately just speculation, of course. However, they were forged by those with an abundance of experience in the field that actually witnessed how each side made their case, and the subsequent tone of questioning each was subjected to by many of the nine justices.
One of the main tenets of New Jersey’s arguments that seemed to resonate with the Court was the idea that the federal government is violating the commandeering principle via the enforcement of the Professional Sports and Amateur Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992, the law at the heart of the case.
PASPA prohibits states from regulating sports betting without an actual federal prohibition on the activity being in place. Under this arrangement, New Jersey argues, the federal government is forcing them to carry their proverbial water on the matter.
The follow-up inquiries on the part of more than one justice appeared to betray the fact they were inclined to agree – at first blush, at least – with that position. That’s potentially crucial, as the commandeering issue appears to be one that the outcome of Murphy vs. NCAA could well hinge on. And that was more than 90 days ago.
Why the Delay?
So, what exactly is the hold-up then? Asking for New Jersey, six other states that have already passed sports betting laws, 15 others currently debating such bills and millions of bettors across the country anxious to plunk a few dollars down on some of their favorite sporting events.
Well, to begin with, the amount of time that’s transpired isn’t inordinate…yet. However, the 93-day average that Adam Feldman, a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia Law School and founder of the Supreme Court “metrics” site EmpricalSCOTUS.com, has been the norm between oral arguments and a SCOTUS decision since 2000 was just exceeded when no decision was announced by March 6.
The wait could soon be over, though. While not intended to serve as an exact schedule, the Supreme Court does “earmark” the dates when it’s most likely to announce decisions on a yearly calendar. There’s another one just around the corner –April 2. Absent a ruling that day, April 30, May 14 and May 29 loom as the next three likely possibilities.
Lots to Hash Out
Five of the court’s nine justices must be in agreement on a core decision before a ruling is announced. With as complex an issue as PASPA is, how long it’s been on the books, and the number of times New Jersey has already been defeated in lower courts on the matter, there’s plenty of precedent and history for the justices to examine. Therefore, getting to that magic number is likely far from a slam dunk, and potentially the overriding reason for delay.
Moreover, Murphy vs. NCAA involves a substantial number of the heavyweights in the multi-billion-dollar professional sports industry, as well as the NCAA. The impact on those entities is undoubtedly being weighed, as is the always thorny matter of federal vs. states’ rights that can sometimes be a divisive factor between left -and right-leading justices. Those impact of those issues likewise shouldn’t be underestimated.
While the exact timing is still up in the air, the one sure bet – pun intended – it that there will be a long-awaited verdict in Murphy vs. NCAA within a matter of months at the latest. With it, it’s highly likely the immediate and long-term future of U.S.-based single-game sports betting is crystallized.