New Jersey's fight for sportsbooks in Atlantic City is headed into the 12th round. A panel of judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals rejected New Jersey's motion that existing federal law outlawing sports betting nationwide with the exception of four U.S. states was unconstitutional, preventing NJ from moving forward with their own state law legalizing sports betting.
The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act ("PASPA") prohibits sports betting across the US with the exception of Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana. Nevada is the single largest beneficiary under the federal statute, operating a virtual monopoly on sports wagering in Sin City.
New Jersey's legal battle began when the major US professional sports leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL) as well as the NCAA filed a lawsuit in Trenton federal court opposing the state's plan to enforce legislation allowing wagering on the outcome of sporting events. The sports leagues argued that the sanctity of their games would be endangered and that federal law PASPA should overrule their plan. District Court judge Michael Shipp eventually agreed with the sports leagues and ruled against New Jersey. SBR interviewed NJ State Senator Raymond Lesniak after the verdict.
The state then embarked on their battle in the Appellate level. SBR reported that Governor Chris Christie predicted that a ruling would not be likely for a year, at which point the loser would seek to bring the case up to the Supreme Court for a final decision.
The three judge panel ruled that the legal measures outlined in PASPA ultimately conflicted with the state's position on sports betting. The federal law won. Interestingly, the panel did touch on that it was not tasked with judging the wisdom of the law itself, only its standing as a matter of constitutional law.
Governor Christie has said all along this issue will likely be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, and that’s what he believes should happen next
One glimmer of hope for New Jerseyans in favor of sports betting in the Garden State came in Judge Thomas Vanaskie's opinion on PASPA, though he ultimately agreed with the other judges on his panel. "PASPA attempts to implement federal policy by telling the states that they may not regulate an otherwise unregulated activity. The Constitution affords Congress no such power," wrote Vanaskie.
New Jersey voters passed a sports betting referendum two years ago - a point Governor Christie has repeatedly drilled home. Christie famously said “If someone wants to stop us, then let them try to stop us," at a news conference discussing sports betting in Atlantic City.
Christie may have bitten off more than he can chew, but his spokesman Collin Reed affirmed the Governor's position held all along that the Supreme Court would decide the issue. "Governor Christie has said all along this issue will likely be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, and that’s what he believes should happen next," stated spokesman Collin Reed.
SBR will update when and if the sports betting case progresses to the US Supreme Court.
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