The Supreme Court’s Gambling Decision Is a Perfect Reflection of America


The whole economy is one big casino, as we learned to our horror in 2008 and 2009. Gambling is now marbled through every level of government; in most states, it’s what they have instead of asking their citizens to pay more in taxes so the schoolhouse ceiling doesn’t fall on the heads of the third grade. It is also why, at most fine convenience stores around the length and breadth of this land, it sometimes takes 20 minutes in line to buy a banana. We have keno parlors, bingo halls, Indian poker rooms, almost every state has a lottery, and there are destination casinos popping up virtually everywhere.

So, what the Supreme Court did on Monday in allowing New Jersey to institute sports betting—and thereby pretty much opening the floodgates on that issue at last—was less high legal theory than recognizing the state of the country as it is. That is not an entirely predictable result from this Court, since it has on occasion based its decisions— coughCitizensUnitedcough—on a country that does not seem similar at all to our own.

From CNN:

Already, Orrin Hatch has leaped in with a bill to regulate sports betting around the country from Washington, this time in compliance with Monday’s decision. Hatch doesn’t want to see sports betting controlled by a patchwork of state regulation—a consideration that he does not see as a problem as regards to, say, reproductive rights.

Essentially, the decision declared that the previous federal law violated the 10th amendment by “commandeering the legislative processes of the states.” (It cited as precedent Printz v. United States, a 1997 decision that invalidated certain provisions of the Brady Bill as violations of the 10th amendment rights of local sheriffs. That Justice Samuel Alito wrote Monday’s decision is nothing if not an indication that there’s a pretty strong Tenther faction on this court, and that it will grow stronger, if the Federalist Society gets to pick a couple more justices.)

Hatch’s bill is unlikely to get much traction. As Alito wrote in his opinion on Monday:

The political system of this country has absorbed the essential gambling ethos into its functional nervous system. So be careful there, Justice Sam. You’re stepping on the toes of someone’s personal history. Jesus, I mean, look who’s president*. A guy who couldn’t make money running casinos.