New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association

Monmouth Park Refutes US Leagues’ Legal Claims in Post-PASPA Damages Battle

The parent company of New Jersey’s Monmouth Park Racetrack, the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NJTHA), has filed its latest brief in its battle against five major American sports associations over years of alleged damages for not being able to offer sports betting at Monmouth Park from 2014 to 2018, when the US’s Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which banned most sports betting across the US, was ruled unconstitutional.

This latest NJTHA filing is the latest salvo in Monmouth Park’s efforts to wrest not only a case-related, court-ordered $3.4 million damages bond from the sports leagues, but to also be compensated with interest and extra damages for the four years of lost business, which brings the facility’s total claims to nearly $150 million.

The five sports leagues against which NJTHA / Monmouth Park has filed the claim for damages — the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and NCAA — have already filed at least two briefs denying various elements of the racetrack’s wrongful-enjoinder claims, with this being the NJTHA’s second rebuttal of those claims. Among the more recent defenses served up by counsel for the leagues is that they bear no financial responsibility since the unconstitutional PASPA was still in effect until earlier this year, when it was dismantled by a US Supreme Court ruling.

That’s all nonsense, according to the racetrack’s counsel, Ronald J. Riccio, who again accuses the leagues of “bad faith” and of collectively having made at least ten false sworn statements before the US District of New Jersey court hearing both the original “Christie II” case and this post-ruling battle for damages. Those false statements were generally attributed to the commissioners and directors of the sports associations who filed suit in 2014 to block New Jersey’s legalization plans.

This latest brief wastes no time in making the NJTHA / Monmouth Park argument clear. From the filing’s preliminary statement:

1. As a matter of law, the NJTHA was wrongfully enjoined because it always had the legal right to do that which it was enjoined from doing. The Supreme Court’s decision declaring PASPA unconstitutional and the New Jersey 2014 law permitting the NJTHA to conduct sports betting at Monmouth Park conclusively establish this fact. As a matter of law, the point in time for determining whether the NJTHA was wrongfully enjoined is May 14, 2018, the date of the Supreme Court’s ultimate decision on the merits, not October 24, 2014, the date the injunction was issued. As a matter of law, whether this court was right or wrong when it enjoined the NJTHA is irrelevant to the question of whether the NJTHA was wrongfully enjoined.

That question of relevancy will be key to how this damages claim is ultimately decided. Later in the filing, buttressed by several case references, the claim is asserted that it doesn’t matter whether PASPA was extant or not: Since the law was ruled unconstitutional, and the leagues used that law to block New Jersey’s plans, the leagues are still liable — immediately for the originally $3.4 million damages bond, and after adjudication for the remainder of the $150 million claim:

As Monmouth Park’s counsel wrote, “The leagues argue that, ‘[G]iven the state of the law in October 2014, it can hardly be said that this court wrongfully entered the TRO [temporary restraining order].'” Except that’s irrelevant, or as the counsel wrote, “This argument completely misses the mark.”

Later, the filing offers this: “The meaning of ‘wrongfully enjoined’ under [the applicable legal rule] has nothing to do with whether the issuing court was right or wrong under then-extant circuit precedent. Under [the rule], ‘wrongfully enjoined’ is viewed in the context of the theory underlying the bond requirement.”

The filing then added, “The NJTHA is not seeking to recover the bond amount because this court may have made a mistake. Rather, the NJTHA seeks to recover on the bond because that is the ‘price’ the leagues contractually agreed to pay to the NJTHA as a condition to get the injunction.”

The “bad faith” claims figure into Monmouth Park’s and NJTHA’s ongoing claims for summary judgment: “As a matter of law, the Leagues acted in bad faith. They indisputedly falsely swore ten times before this court. Therefore, judgment should immediately be entered adjudicating that because the Leagues acted in bad faith, they are immediately liable to the NJTHA for damages in excess of the $3.4 million bond amount. The extent and amount of excess bond damages should be determined at an evidentiary hearing preceded by elevated discovery.”

This battle for damages is expected to stretch well into 2019, even as Monmouth park and other New Jersey gambling facilities are coming up to speed with their fully legal sports-betting services.

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