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Supreme Court Strikes Down Federal Sports Betting Ban


We have news out of the Supreme Court this morning. The court has struck down a law that effectively banned sports gambling in all states but Nevada. It is one of three decisions coming out of the high court today. And joining us to walk through the rulings is NPR's lead political editor and Supreme Court editor, Domenico Montanaro. Hey, Domenico.


MARTIN: All right. So does this mean sports betting is legal now?

MONTANARO: Well, it's going to depend on the states. You know, essentially, what the court did was take away the prevention of states being able to go forward and legalize sports gambling. You know, it's illegal everywhere in the country except in Nevada. They have the special carve-out. And New Jersey took - didn't take kindly to that. Its governor at the time, Chris Christie, decided that with the shuttering of multiple casinos in New Jersey that it was going to challenge this rule. And they won. It's a big win for New Jersey.

And notably, you know, there's a couple other New Jersey connections here. Bill Bradley, the former New York Knick and former senator, actually had the act that was put in place in 1992 to prevent this kind of sports gambling. And Donald Trump at the time, who was suffering casino losses, was lobbying to try to get sports gambling legal. So we haven't heard from the White House yet. But I imagine President Trump is OK with this.

MARTIN: Huh. OK. So there were a couple other decisions to talk about. There was a unanimous decision ruling for privacy rights. This was referred to as Byrd v. the U.S. - name of the case. What happened there?

MONTANARO: Yeah, the court unanimously agreed with the driver of a rental car who said he had his privacy rights violated by police during a traffic stop in Pennsylvania. They found dozens of bricks of heroin and body armor in his trunk after discovering a warrant for his arrest in nearby New Jersey - another Jersey connection. The man said he did not consent to the search, but the cops said that it didn't matter because his name wasn't on a rental agreement. The Supreme Court disagreed with the police and the government on that and held that the man still maintained a reasonable expectation of privacy.

MARTIN: So that was a unanimous decision. There was a closer ruling, though, on a defendant's Sixth Amendment rights, which essentially guarantees us all a fair trial. How did the justices rule here?

MONTANARO: Yeah, this was really interesting because you had an inmate who did not want to plead guilty in a case. His lawyer thought it would be in his best interest to plead guilty because then he could avoid the death penalty. The man said, no, I don't want to plead plead guilty to this. And the court agreed with him by a 6-3 margin that he had the right to do that, not the lawyer.

So the court said guaranteeing a defendant the right to have the, quote, "assistance of counsel for his defense the Sixth Amendment so demands. With individual liberty - and, in capital cases, life at stake - it's the defendant's prerogative, not counsel's, to decide on the objective of his defense - to admit guilt in the hope of gaining mercy at the sentencing stage or to maintain his innocence, leaving it to the state to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." So bottom line here, Rachel, you and I have the right to decide how we plead, not a lawyer.

MARTIN: Got it. Domenico Montanaro, lead political editor for NPR. He also edits our Supreme Court coverage. Headline today out of the Supreme Court - the court striking down a law that effectively banned sports gambling in all states but Nevada. Domenico, thanks so much. We appreciate it.

MONTANARO: You're welcome, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Domenico Montanaro
Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.
Rachel Martin
Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, and a founding host of NPR's award-winning morning news podcast Up First. Martin's interviews take listeners behind the headlines to understand the people at the center of those stories.