Top Court Clears Way For Casino Ads

The Supreme Court Monday allowed TV and radio advertising in nine Western states for state-licensed gambling casinos, despite a federal law that bans such ads.

Rejecting a Clinton administration appeal in a closely watched free-speech case, the justices let stand a federal appeals court ruling that struck down the federal ad ban.

Justice Department lawyers did not attack the substance of the appeals court ruling in a Nevada case, but argued instead that the lower court wrongly relied on a 1995 Supreme Court commercial free-speech decision.

Because that ruling was issued after the casino-ads case was argued in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the administration argued, the appeals court should have sent the dispute back to a federal trial judge.

The appeals court ruling became binding law in Nevada, Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.

In other decisions Monday, the Supreme Court::

  • Rejected a free-speech challenge to the National Park Service ban on the sale of T-shirts on the national Mall and at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the nation's capital. Seven non-profit groups argued unsuccessfully that the rule stifles "a unique, vital and widely accepted mode of communication - the sale of message-bearing merchandise.''
  • Let stand a $46.4 million award won by a Kuwaiti conglomerate that had contracted for the right to open Toys R Us stores in 14 Middle East countries. When a contract dispute arose, Toys R Us sought an arbitrator's ruling that the agreement had been terminated in 1993. The arbitrator concluded that the contract had not ended, and that it had been broken by Toys R Us. The retailer soughtto have the award overturned, but a federal trial judge and the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against it.

  • Let stand rulings that have sealed records from the Oklahoma City bombing prosecutions. The records sought by The Dallas Morning News include statements defendant Terry Nichols made to FBI agents. U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch in Denver sealed this and scores of other documents, saying their release would jeopardize the defendants' rights to fair trials. The Dallas paper, joined by a coalition of 68 other news organizations, challenged the sealing. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later upheld Matsch's decision.
  • Set aside Florida court rulings that said Newsweek magazine is not entitled to a refund of sales taxes it paid to Florida under a law later declared unconstitutional. In 1988, Florida began imposing a tax on magazines sold in the state. The Florida Supreme Court ruled the tax unconstitutional in 1990. The state court did not say whether any refunds should be paid. Newsweek, sought a refund, but it was denied by the Florida Department of Revenue and the Florida courts. The Florida Supreme Court refused to hear Newsweek's ensuing appeal.
  • Let stand rulingthat allowed the federal government to reduce Alaska's share of royalties from federal oil and gas leases in the state.. Alaska Attorney General Bruce Botelho said that a binding promise was made as part of the compact that led to Alaska's becoming the nation's 49th state in 1959. Congress in 1993 decided to deduct 50 percent of the government's administrative costs in running the mineral-leasing program before calculating what amount was to be paid to the states. Alaska sued. The U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled against Alaska, and its ruling was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

  • Let stand Vernon Maxwell's 1995 conviction in Houston for marijuana possession. Maxwell, a member of the National Basketball Association's Charlotte Hornets, argued that his guilty plea had not been made knowingly or voluntarily because he had not received adequate legal help.

  • Agreed to review requirements Colorado once imposed on petitioning for voter-initiated ballot measures. Lower courts' have ruled that the Colorado regulations, which supporters claim are aimed at reducing the likelihood of fraud, violated free-speech and could not be enforced.
  • Let stand a ruling nearly half the states say restricts their power to impose water-quality standards on federally licensed projects. At issue is whether North Carolina's clearance was required for a Virginia project that reduced the flow of water from a dam that created a lake and a hydroelectric generating station in North Carolina. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruled in 1995 that clearance was not required, a decision later upheld by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbi. North Carolina's appeal was supported in a friend-of-the-court brief submitted in behalf of 21 other states.

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