Of all the petitions in the United States Supreme court at the moment, the one involving the legalization of sports betting seems to be commanding a lot of attention especially among various stakeholders on both opposing and supporting sides. As it stands, legal experts, attorneys as well as states’ rights activists are very optimistic about the possibility that the Supreme Court will abolish the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 that effectively forbade sports betting in all the states save for Nevada.
On December 4th, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on whether sports betting should be legalized at New Jersey racetracks and casinos, and, Mississippi is one of the five states that officially backed New Jersey’s effort. In case the Supreme Court rules in favor of New Jersey Mississippi’s state officials and gaming operators are already prepared to offer sports betting services from the word go.
“Should the Supreme Court issue a favorable ruling, the Mississippi Gaming Commission will be ready to address sports gambling,” Allen Godfrey, executive director of the commission said. “The time would be determined more by how long it takes the operators to get ready to offer it as a regulated game.”
The ruling which is expected to come in the spring is already causing quite a stir in legal circles. While it is very difficult to accurately predict the outcome of the Supreme Court hearings, many court analysts have expressed their confidence in the ruling falling in favor of New Jersey.
State lawmakers in Mississippi have already tweaked the state’s laws pertaining to sports betting so as to create an opening for immediate implementation once a favorable ruling is made. In case this comes to pass, it will be the second big change in the state’s law after House Bill 967 that was passed by the Legislature in the 2017 session. Apparently, House Bill 967 holds the magic key to the immediate implementation of sports betting – the lawmakers managed to slip in some language that would effectively legalize sports betting in Mississippi once the ban is lifted. The lawmakers and legislative leaders, however, denied having prior knowledge of the loophole that they created when passing the fantasy sports gaming law.
“We did not see (House Bill 967) in the same light as sports betting. We knew there was a federal law that prohibited sports betting but allowed fantasy sports gaming,” Senator Sean Tindell said. “We weren’t concerned with sports betting then because we knew federal law would trump anything we could pass.”
A lot of people have been watching the Supreme Court case very closely and the results will have rather broad implications according to Jonathan Wood, an attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation, a Washington-based legal firm.
“If New Jersey wins, it means states have a lot of power to experiment on a lot of issues. If the leagues win, the federal government would effectively be telling states what laws their voters can or can’t pass,” he pointed out.