New Jersey Will Appeal Sports Betting Case To Supreme Court
Legal Sports Report

New Jersey Loses In Sports Betting Case Once Again, As Court Rejects Appeal

NJ sports betting rejected
New Jersey’s effort to legalize sports betting in the state hit yet another roadblock, as its appeal was rejected again by the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

It was another victory for the major North American sports leagues — the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball — who are the plaintiffs in the case, along with the NCAA and the U.S. Department of Justice.

ESPN’s David Purdum has reaction from most of the leagues here.

NJ sports betting, denied again

The quest to legalize NJ sports betting was handed perhaps its biggest defeat yet.

An en banc panel of judges affirmed the court’s earlier finding that the state cannot partially repeal state law to allow sports betting — at least not in the manner in which it did so when it passed a law in 2014.

The law is in violation of the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), the court held for the second time. PASPA is the law that outlaws betting on sports in all states except for Nevada, and limited wagering that can occur in Delaware, Montana and Oregon.

In August of 2015, a panel of three judges considered the case, and New Jersey lost 2-1. The court vacated that ruling in February to make way for the rehearing that took place in February.

This time around, New Jersey was again soundly defeated, with nine of the 12 judges siding with the majority against NJ’s position,.

The full opinion can be seen here.

What’s next for the NJ sports betting case?

The options for New Jersey are running out via the courts, this time around.

The only place the case can be appealed is the Supreme Court. But given the wide margin for the majority in the rehearing, that would seem to be unlikely. The state will petition the court, however:

Beyond that, the court challenges will have run out.

New Jersey may attempt again to partially repeal its sports betting law in a manner that would conform with PASPA. State Sen. Ray Lesniak indicated to ESPN that he would be attempting that route.

But that would likely result in yet another lengthy court battle, and it’s not clear what kind of appetite the state government has to make yet another attempt with a different sports betting law.

Inside the NJ sports betting opinion

Judge Marjorie Rendell wrote the majority opinion, a fairly straight forward decision.

We now hold that the District Court correctly ruled that because PASPA, by its terms, prohibits states from authorizing by law sports gambling, and because the 2014 Law does exactly that, the 2014 Law violates federal law.

The possibility that PASPA would fail on constitutional grounds this time around — via the 10th Amendment — also lost momentum. Also from the opinion.

We also hold that we correctly ruled in Christie I that PASPA does not commandeer the states in a way that runs afoul of the Constitution.

The law, as it was passed, only allowed casinos and other gaming establishments to offer sports betting, and was thus just a “partial repeal” of New Jersey’s laws prohibiting sports betting. That’s the issue that the court takes with what NJ has tried to do with sports betting, to date:

…the 2014 Law authorizes sports gambling by selectively dictating where sports gambling may occur, who may place bets in such gambling, and which athletic contests are permissible subjects for such gambling.

And:

While artfully couched in terms of a repealer, the 2014 Law essentially provides that, notwithstanding any other prohibition by law, casinos and racetracks shall hereafter be permitted to have sports gambling. This is an authorization.

 

Aspen Photo / Shutterstock.com

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Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.