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Noel Francisco could play role in future of nationwide sports betting

President Donald Trump has nominated Noel Francisco as the administration's top Supreme Court attorney, and if he's confirmed he'll be poised to file an influential legal brief in the pending New Jersey sports betting case.

Francisco's nomination as the next solicitor general -- the Justice Department position responsible for representing the executive branch in Supreme Court matters -- is the latest development in discussions swirling around the prospect of legalized sports wagering nationwide.

Last month, Trump was asked about his position on making sports gambling legal nationwide. His comments may indicate how his new solicitor general could frame the issue for the Supreme Court.

"I would be talking to [sports league commissioners], and we'll see how they feel about it," Trump said in a radio broadcast with Westwood One's Jim Gray that was released on Super Bowl Sunday. "I'd also get the input from lots of law enforcement officials, because, obviously, [expanded legalized sports betting] is a big step.

"So we wouldn't do it lightly, I can tell you that. It will be studied very carefully."

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred expressed an open mind on the issue last month too.

"We are re-examining our stance on gambling," Manfred said at the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit in New York City. "It's a conversation that's ongoing with the owners."

New Jersey's long-running quest for Vegas-style sports wagering has been rebuffed repeatedly the past five years. But earlier this year, the Supreme Court provided New Jersey with a glimmer of hope when the justices invited the Solicitor General to file a legal brief explaining the government's view.

"The Solicitor General is colloquially referred to as the 'Tenth Justice' because of his or her regular appearances before the Supreme Court and trusted status as a litigant," said Adam Feldman, a Supreme Court researcher at Columbia Law School.