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Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association

Citation. 138 S. Ct. 1461 (2018)
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Brief Fact Summary.

New Jersey wants to legalize sports gambling at casinos and horseracing tracks, but the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act generally makes it unlawful for a state to authorize sports gambling schemes. A case is brought to the court for determination of whether the Act is compatible with the Constitution.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The Constitution confers on Congress sizable, but not plenary powers. All other legislative powers not granted to Congress are reserved for the States.


The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), enacted by Congress, contains a provision that makes it unlawful for states to sponsor, operate, advertise or authorize sports gambling schemes. New Jersey voters approved an amendment to the State Constitution in a referendum making it lawful for the legislature to authorize sports gambling and the State enacted a law doing that. The professional sports leagues and the NCAA brought an action against the New Jersey Governor, seeking to enjoin the law on the ground it violated PASPA.


Is the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which makes it unlawful for states to authorize sports gambling schemes, not compatible with the system of “dual sovereignty” embodied in the Constitution?


No. PASPA is not consistent with the Constitution. The Act regulates state governments’ regulation of their citizens and the Constitution does not grant Congress such power. The legislative powers given to Congress are not unlimited. The Constitution grants Congress not plenary legislative power but only certain enumerated powers. All other power not granted to Congress is reserved for the States as confirmed by the Tenth Amendment. Also, The PASPA provision violates the anti-commandeering rule, because it leads to a situation where state legislatures are put under the direct control of Congress. As in New York and Printz, Congress cannot issue direct orders to state legislatures. Moreover, respondents’ defense of the anti-authorization prohibition on the ground that it constitutes a valid preemption provision does not have a merit because the PASPA provision is not a preemption provision since it only regulates the States, not private actors.


The Court’s adherence to anti-commandeering principle is important because the rule serves as “one of the Constitution’s structural protections of liberty”, “promotes political accountability”, and prevents Congress from shifting the costs of regulation to the States.

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