Four US states – Georgia, Kansas, Virginia and West Virginia – have filed a ‘friend of the court’ brief backing New Jersey’s bid to offer legal sports betting to state residents. The brief (read it here) comes a week after the New Jersey state attorney general, state politicians and the state’s horseracing association filed their appeals of the Feb. 28 District Court ruling rejecting New Jersey’s bid to overturn the federal PASPA sports betting prohibition, which limits single-game sports wagering to the state of Nevada.
To be clear, the four states who filed Monday’s amici curiae brief aren’t chomping at the bit to join New Jersey’s quest to bring legal sports betting to their huddled masses. Indeed, the brief states quite openly that the four state attorneys general “take no position on the wisdom” of opening up legal sports betting to a larger audience.
These states – all of which cast their electoral votes for Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election – are infinitely more concerned with the District Court’s interpretation of the US Constitution’s anti-commandeering edict. As such, this brief is likely more concerned with taking a stand against implementation of the so-called Obamacare health insurance legislation and other hot-button states’ rights issues.
The states argue that if the Third Circuit Court of Appeals were to uphold District Court Judge Michael Shipp’s ruling, the result would “undermine our system of dual sovereignty.” Congress would be emboldened to “pass laws that shift political blame and accountability to the states” and to “intentionally discriminate among the States even when Congress is not targeting a specific local problem.” Congress has no right to “limit car manufacturing to Michigan, cigarette manufacturing to Virginia, or seafood processing to Massachusetts based on nothing more than pure favoritism, historic tradition, political expediency, or geographic convenience.”
Preserving the dual sovereignty system ensures that each branch of government “is publicly exposed as responsible for its actions and each must bear the electoral consequences of those actions.” Preserving PASPA, on the other hand, ensures that state officials “bear the brunt of public disapproval, while the federal officials who devised the regulatory program may remain insulated from the electoral ramifications of their decision.”
Amusingly, the brief supports its accountability argument by quoting Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra in noting that “the nature of bad news infects the teller.” The brief also notes that “studies show the average American does not stay abreast of political affairs,” and thus he/she is more likely to blame the local government with whom he/she more routinely interacts, rather than the feds who might order a state to limit a particular activity. So there you have it, Americans deserve legal sports betting because they’re too busy watching Honey Boo Boo to bother investigating who’s behind a ban on jumbo-sized soda containers.