New Jersey

New Jersey Sports Betting Battle Intensifies, Leagues Seek Injunction

New Jersey’s plans to introduce real-money sports betting as soon as this weekend have encountered fierce resistance from five major American sports leagues and associations, who have intervened in a federal court in an attempt to stop the rollout.

Attorneys representing the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Hockey League (NHL) and the National Basketball Association (NBA), have filed a motion with US District Judge Michael J. Shipp seeking both a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction.  The leagues’ intent is stop the announced debut of real-money sports wagering at Monmouth Park Racetrack this Sunday, which was enabled via the signing of New Jersey Senate Bill S2460 by Governor Chris Christie on Friday.

New JerseyS2460 is a limited repeal of the state’s pre-existing ban on sportsbetting, which would allow the activity to occur at certain gambling venues — e.g.: racetracks and casinos — that are otherwise licensed for those other gambling activities at the state.

Judge Shipp is the same US district judge who has already ruled against the state in its previous efforts to overturn the US federal-level PASPA (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act), the three-decades-old statute which bans almost all forms of sports wagering in the United States, excepting Nevada for most forms of betting and a limited form of parlay betting in three other US states.

According to reports in local New Jersey outlets, Judge Shipp has given the state and various defendants named in in the league’s order to show cause until Wednesday to respond to the leagues’ Monday filing.  In addition to the motion for the TRO and preliminary injunction, the leagues’ counsel has filed a 35-page brief, supported with another 150 pages of exhibits and affidavits, and has even provided Judge Shipp with a text template for a proposed order for a permanent injunction against the state.

The leagues and their counsel will have an extra day (until Thursday) to respond to additional submissions by the state, at which time Shipp will decide if oral arguments should be heard on Friday.

Despite strong argument points on both sides of the legal scuffle, many legal onlookers believe that Judge Shipp will again side with the leagues and issue the injunction as requested.

The brief as filed by the leagues makes five basic assertions in its argument for the TRO and injunction:

  1. That plaintiffs [the leagues] are likely to prevail in arguing that the 2014 Sports Wagering Law, the latest iteration of the New Jersey law, violates PASPA, or that the law violates the New Jersey Constitution and that the planned wagering at Monmouth Park would then violate PASPA;
  2. Plaintiffs would be irreparably harmed in the event sportsbetting is allowed at New Jersey racetracks or casinos;
  3. The “balance of equities” suggests that any possible harm done to the defendants [the state and various other defendants] is outweighed by the possible harm done to the pro leagues and the NCAA, and thus Judge Shipp should favor the leagues and issue the injunction;
  4. Issuing the temporary restraints serves the public’s interest;
  5. It is necessary to grant the order on extremely short notice because of the claimed “immediacy and irrepairability of injury to plaintiffs” that allowing the sports betting to proceed would allegedly produce.

Though the sports associations’ filing makes strong points with regard to the real intent of the limited repeal of New Jersey’s existing sportsbetting prohibitions, the argument concerning “irreparable harm” appears weak.  That latter point, however, by definition, is the crux of the formal determination Shipp is supposed to adhere to in reaching his decision.

Nowhere in the 35-page brief filed on the leagues’ behalf are any examples of how other legalized sportsbetting jurisdictions have caused such harm to the five associations, whether the jurisdiction in question is Nevada, the three other US states where parlay betting is allowed, or much of the rest of the world, where such betting is fully legal.  The NFL, for example, has even made a point of transplanting an annual game to London, England, where full legal sports betting is available.

Nonethless, the latest filing by the leagues throws plenty of mud in New Jersey’s direction.  Wrote the leagues’ attorneys. “[T]he state’s latest attempt to authorize sports gambling at its carefully regulated state-authorized gambling venues is just as unlawful as its previous efforts. … It therefore violates both PASPA and this court’s [previous] injunction, which prohibits the governor and other state officials” from legalizing and regulating sports betting in New Jersey.”

Named as defendants in the motion by the league are New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement Director [DGE] David L. Rebuck, New Jersey Racing Commission Executive Director Frank Zanzuccki, the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horseman’s Association [NJTHA], and the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority [NJSEA].

The planned introduction of sportsbetting is intended as a boost to both live and online-gambling fortunes in the state, which has seen Atlantic City lose four of its 12 casinos in the past year.  The introduction of online gambling, including online poker, has to date progressed at a much slower pace than industry and government officials had hoped, another reason why the state’s gaming industry and its legislative supporters have pushed for the sports betting introduction.

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