Ted Olson, the legendary constitutional lawyer who won the groundbreaking Murphy v. NCAA which struck down a US federal ban on sports betting, won the first-ever iPioneer Lifetime Achievement Award at the ICE Sports Betting USA conference. The award is sponsored by Clarion Gaming.
Theodore B. Olson is a former US Solicitor General, who argues on behalf of the US Justice Department before the Supreme Court, and a partner at the prestigious Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher law firm out of Los Angeles, but with 20 offices worldwide. As the US Solicitor General and a private lawyer, Ted Olson has argued over 60 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. He represented the state of New Jersey in Murphy v. NCAA (previously Christie v. NCAA).
Ewa Bakun, the Director of Industry Oversight and Entertainment for Clarion Gaming, presented the award to Olson. Mrs. Bakun said in her introduction, “Although there are a number of people who contributed to that success, it’s fair to say that without Mr Olson’s brilliantly delivered Supreme Court argument, and all the work that led up to it, we wouldn’t be here this week at ICE Sports Betting USA discussing the future of legal sports betting.”
“We would like to honour Mr Olson with an award for basically being the father of legal US sports betting and clearing the path to the creation of this market. It was a long journey and the odds didn’t seem great for quite a few years, but you were the person who made it happen.”
iPioneer Lifetime Achievement Award
The iPioneer Lifetime Achievement Award is a new award designed to honor those who have made contributions to the spread of interactive gaming and sports betting in North America. Ampersand, Clarion’s think tank, will decide on the recipients in the coming years.
How Ted Olson Changed US Gaming
When New Jersey first challenged the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 2012, it seemed like a quixotic act. Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s adminstration and the Democrat-controlled New Jersey legislature combined to pass a bipartisan referendum in 2012 to legalize sports betting.
Attempts to implement the sports betting bill brought a lawsuit from the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, and NCAA in late 2012. The case was heard by Judge Michael Shipp in the 3rd District Court in Trenton, New Jersey, but the sports associations won the first legal battle. New Jersey appealed the decision to the Third Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, where the appeal was rejected in a 2-1 decision. Christie appealed the decision to the US Supreme Court, but they refused to hear the case in June 2014.
Second Round of Lawsuits: 2014 to 2018
That seemed to be the end of New Jersey sports betting. Instead, the state’s leaders took the advice of the dissenting opinion in the appellate decision, which argued that New Jersey could not defy the PAPSA law, but it would be constitutional for it to repeal its challenge to PASPA and then look the other way as New Jersey casinos and racetracks opened sportsbooks.
That is exactly what New Jersey did, which led to Monmouth Park and William Hill US’s preparation to launch a legal (but unregulated) sportsbook in October 2014. The five sports associations again sued and the case again went to Judge Michael Shipp’s court. Shipp, the brother of former NFL running back Marcell Shipp, again ruled against New Jersey.
Christie appealed the case to the Third Appellate Court in Philadelphia, where the appeal was rejected. New Jersey then asked for an “en banc” ruling by the appellate court, which was granted. All 12 sitting judges on the court agreed to rule on the case, but this led to a bitter 10-2 defeat by New Jersey.
Ted Olson’s Role in PASPA Repeal
All these cases were argued by Ted Olson, and the famous constitutional lawyer was 0-5 in those cases. Chris Christie once again filed an amicus brief with the US Supreme Court and many predicted the case would not be heard by the justices. This time was different, though, as 20 US states signed the amicus brief. The SCOTUS agreed to hear the case.
On December 4, 2017, Ted Olson strode up the steps to the US Supreme Court and argued Christie v. NCAA before the nine justices. This time, he was successful and the court agreed in a 6-3 decision to rule on behalf of New Jersey and strike down the PASPA federal ban in 46 US states. By this time, Chris Christie was out of office and replaced by Gov. Phil Murphy, so the official case history refers to it as Murphy v. NCAA.
$150 Billion Industry Is Now Legal
That single decision changed sports betting in America. Now, a potential $150 billion industry could become legal for Americans. More importantly for casinos, racetracks, and gaming suppliers, the industry could become legal in dozens of US states. The potential for lucrative revenues seems to have drawn all the big names to the United States: 888, PokerStars, GVC Holdings, Betfair-Ladbrokes, FanDuel, DraftKings, Sportradar, and so on.
Ted Olson had a material effect on US sports gambling. US sports bettors now can enjoy a hobby others around the world have enjoyed all this time. Land-based casinos and racetracks around the country get a new lifeline. US sports leagues, which fought hard to stop legal sports betting, gain a boost in their revenues. Ted Olson, along with many others, had a key role in that.
The next major conference held by Clarion Gaming will be ICE North America (May 13-15 in Boston, MA). The ICE North America conference plans to bring together Clarion’s US assets, ICE Sports Betting USA and GiGse.