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Game On, Sports Gambling

No, the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t just legalize sports betting this week.

But it did pave the way for your state to legalize it if it wants to.

Before Monday, a federal law from 1992 barred any state from doing that. The only exceptions were Nevada, Oregon, Delaware, and Montana because their laws were grandfathered in.

Then a few years ago, New Jersey wanted to legalize sports betting, so it passed a law and challenged the federal ban in court. And it won.

The Supreme Court said the federal ban violated a principle of dual sovereignty that underlies the Constitution. The idea is that Congress can regulate a lot of things, but it can’t order the states to pass certain laws or not pass others. It may regulate people’s conduct to the extent the Constitution permits, and if it does then federal law is supreme. But it can’t tell state legislatures which laws to write for themselves.

“Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each State is free to act on its own. Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. [This law] is not.”

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