Handicapping when SCOTUS will rule on NJ betting case

The Supreme Court is getting ready to rule on the New Jersey sports betting case. When will it happen? AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images

The Supreme Court is poised to release its decision in the most important sports betting case in United States history.

After more than five years of litigation and considerable shifts in how certain sports leagues and lawmakers view the potential legalization of sports betting, a ruling in New Jersey's case to legalize sports wagering could come as early as next month.

"We most likely will see a decision in early to mid-March," said Adam Feldman, a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia Law School and creator of EmpiricalSCOTUS.com, a quantitative research site. "Since the Supreme Court term in the year 2000, the average number of days between oral argument and when an opinion was released was 93 days."

Another expert agreed with the forecasted over/under.

"The Supreme Court is very efficient so cases are generally decided within approximately 90 days of oral argument," said Christopher Kise, a partner at Foley & Lardner LLP who has argued four cases before the Supreme Court, including one this term. "So for this case, a decision can be expected as early as March."

Oral arguments in the New Jersey sports wagering case took place Dec. 4, 2017.

The Supreme Court does not provide advance notice of when specific decisions will be released, but it does earmark most of the days when rulings are issued. Of the 10 remaining such days before the start of the Supreme Court's summer recess in July, the dates set for the next two months seem most likely.

A number of factors -- all occurring behind closed doors -- go into how long it takes for the Supreme Court to finalize its decisions, including lengthy documents that can sometimes exceed 50 pages of single-spaced text.

Indeed, complications can arise with one or more of the nine justices reaching a different conclusion than the majority. When this happens, then the decision can see a "dissent" or "concurrence" added after the main portion of the ruling.

"Cases involving more contentious or divisive issues and those generating a higher number of concurring and dissenting opinions tend to increase the time between argument and decision," said Kise.

At least five out of nine justices must agree on the core decision in the case for a ruling to be announced. And getting to five can sometimes be difficult.

"The main issue that gets in the way of case resolution is when a majority of justices cannot find consensus in the outcome," Feldman said. "This happens most often in high salience cases.

"The process can get really bogged down if justices change their minds after they take an initial vote."

Here is a list of the currently announced dates in which the Supreme Court is set to release decisions, and how likely the decision on the New Jersey sports betting case will be announced on those dates:

Most likely

March 5, April 2 and 30

Somewhat likely

May 14, 21 and 29

Less likely

June 4, 11, 18 and 25