Christie Looks to Sports Gambling for a Rare Second-Term Victory

Yet the legal case, which could bring the United States a step closer to legalized sports betting nationwide, gives the governor a chance deliver a win to millions of Americans itching to bet legally on sports.

“I’ve always believed that leadership is about taking risks,” Mr. Christie said, adding that he was “cautiously optimistic” that his side would prevail. “If you’re unwilling to take risks, then you’re never going to achieve great things. And sometimes that means you take risks and the risk doesn’t work out. But we take educated risks.”

The case centers on a law, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or Paspa, passed in 1992. It prohibits states from offering betting on competitions involving amateur or professional athletes.

The law grandfathered in four states that already had allowed sports gambling and created an exception for New Jersey, which was allowed one year after Paspa went into effect to set up a sports betting system.

New Jersey failed to take advantage of the exception. Yet in 2011, New Jersey residents voted to amend the state constitution and allow the legislature to legalize sports betting, and it did so the next year. The N.C.A.A. and the four major professional sports leagues sued, arguing the law violated Paspa. A series of federal courts agreed, and the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

The New Jersey legislature tried a new tactic in 2014, passing a law that partially repealed prohibitions on sports betting, believing that Paspa only prohibited the affirmative legalization of sports betting. Once again the N.C.A.A. and major professional sports leagues sued, and once again federal courts ruled against New Jersey.

But earlier this year, the Supreme Court surprised legal observers. Although the lower courts and the acting solicitor general for the United States, who asked the Supreme Court not to review the case, were all in agreement, the Supreme Court decided to hear the Christie administration’s challenge of Paspa anyway.

“It’s a very, very important case with respect to the division of authority in our system of government, between the federal government and state sovereign governments,” said Ted Olson, the attorney who will represent New Jersey in court on Monday.

Professional sports leagues, recognizing the ubiquity of illicit sports betting, have begun altering their longstanding stances against legalized sports betting, which they…

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