New Jersey

US Supreme Court Denies New Jersey Appeal in Sportsbetting Case

The US Supreme Court today announced that it has denied a writ of certiorari in connection with New Jersey’s attempts to allow legal sportsbetting services within the state.  The denial means that a lower federal appeals court decision will be left intact, and that New Jersey will not be able to appeal the matter before the Supreme Court.

New JerseyToday’s order list of cases reviewed by the US Supreme Court for possible appellate consideration included three matters regarding New Jersey’s attempts to formally introduce legalized sportsbetting, as approved by voter referendum back in 2011.  Despite also being approved by the state’s legislature and signed into law by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the sportsbetting was immediately challenged in court by the United States’ four major professional sports organizations (NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL), along with collegiate-athletics association NCAA.

The three cases which were combined for consideration in the writ of certiorari were: Christie v. NCAA (13-967); New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association v. NCAA (13-979); and Sweeney v. NCAA (13-980).

The sports groups triumphed over the New Jersey legislators in a case that saw the US Congress and the Obama Administration, via the Department of Justice, weigh in on the side of the leagues, defending the constitutionality of the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), under which widespread sportsbetting is allowed only in Nevada, where it pre-existed and was grandfathered in when PASPA was created.  (Three other states, including New Jersey’s neighbor, Delaware, allow a very limited form of sportsbetting via state-authorized parlay offerings.)

New Jersey tried to challenge PASPA and implement its planned-for sportsbetting under the traditional gambling umbrella of states’ rights in such matters, but was stymied by the fact that PASPA, when it was enacted in 1992, included a one-year period within which other states could join Nevada in offering legal sportsbetting.  Neither New Jersey nor any other state joined Nevada in authorizing sportsbetting during that period.

The writ to the Supreme Court was an unlikely option in any event.  Traditionally, the US Supreme Court grants less than 1% of the writs for appeal that it receives.  In the latest series of cases to be considered, the court granted only five writs, while dismissing hundreds of others.  At the present time that leaves New Jersey’s plans to implement its own voter-approved sportsbetting plans without an easy way to move forward.

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney promised that the state wouldn’t be backing down, despite the federal court setback.  “We will be working with our legal team and advocates to determine the best course of action moving forward,” Sweeney said, in a statement to local outlets.  “New Jersey has been held hostage by this unfair law and the national sports associations long enough. It’s time to bring sports wagering to New Jersey.”

At the same time, and with the expectation that the US Supreme Court would decline to hear the case, NJ State Senator Ray Lesniak introduced today a new bill that would again specifically authorize sports betting in New Jersey.  Lesniak is among the state’s casino industry’s most ardent legislative backers, and played a prominent role in sponsoring legislation that ultimately brought legalized online poker and casino games to New Jersey residents.

In a prepared statement issued today, Lesniak argued that New Jersey “is free to repeal those [PASPA] prohibitions in whole or in part.”  Added Lesniak, “I plan on placing my first bet at Monmouth Racetrack on September 8th for the Giants to beat the spread against the Lions on Monday Night Football.”

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