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Supreme Court strikes down federal law banning sports betting

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The Supreme Court on Monday said that New Jersey can legalize sports betting, opening the door for more states to allow sports gambling.

The justices ruled that a federal law banning states from legalizing sports gambling, called the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act or PASPA, was partially unconstitutional because the federal government cannot tell states what laws they can enact.

Congress can regulate sports gambling but “if it elects not to do so, each state is free to act on its own,” according to the court’s opinion.

PASPA prohibited states from sponsoring, operating, advertising, promoting, licensing or authorizing sports gambling. The legal challenge came after former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a law in 2012 that would allow sports betting at casinos and racetracks in the state.

Christie tweeted that the decision was a “great day” and that the federal government had no right to block a law supported by NJ residents.

The NCAA, along with other major professional sports leagues like the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB, filed a lawsuit arguing that Christie’s legislation violated PASPA, which was passed in 1992 to protect the “integrity” of games. They called the law “a straightforward exercise of Congress’ power to preempt the operation of state laws that conflict with federal policy on matters within Congress’ purview.”

The court ruled in favor of Christie’s argument that PASPA violates the 10th Amendment “anti-commandeering principle,” which limits the federal government’s power to compel states to enforce federal law. The federal government was infringing on the individual laws of states, the court added.

Lower courts initially ruled with the sports leagues. The Supreme Court had initially declined to hear the case but reversed course after new legislation and another lawsuit.

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