US Pro Sports Leagues, NCAA Oppose NJ Sports Betting Appeal To US Supreme Court

Posted on December 14, 2016

[toc]The NCAA and the four major US professional sports leagues — the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB — filed a brief opposing a US Supreme Court review in the ongoing New Jersey sports betting case.

The latest on NJ sports betting, and the backstory

The filing from the leagues and the organization that oversees collegiate sports was expected once the state of New Jersey appealed its case to offer legal sports betting within its borders to the US Supreme Court.

The state has lost at every step along the way in two attempts to legalize sports betting. The latest defeat came this summer when an en banc panel of the Third Circuit ruled 9-3 against New Jersey. Courts have said the state’s efforts to do a partial repeal of its sports betting prohibitions run afoul of federal law — the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.

Two things that some legal pundits thought might happen did not. One theory — that the leagues would ask for a SCOTUS review to put the issue of the constitutionality of PASPA to rest — did not come to bear.

There was also some hope that the NBA — which has been a proponent of a federal framework for regulated US sports betting — would cease its action as a plaintiff in the case. The NBA, however, joined the other leagues in Wednesday’s filing.

Now the sides wait to hear if the Supreme Court will agree that the appeal should be heard.

What’s in the new sports betting brief?

This is the second time a case involving NJ sports betting law has been appealed to the Supreme Court. SCOTUS did not hear an appeal the first time around.

The filing minces no words in saying the court should ignore the appeal:

The principal difference is that now petitioners have added three more adverse decisions, including one by an overwhelming majority of an en banc court, to the tally of strikes against them. There is no reason for this Court to reach a different result this time around.

The argument of the leagues and the NCAA continues to be that New Jersey is clearly violating PASPA via the state law’s language. The leagues also continue to contend that PASPA is constitutional and does not usurp states’ rights:

The district court, a panel of the Third Circuit, and the overwhelming majority of the en banc Third Circuit all recognized that when New Jersey dictated who could gamble on sports, where they could do it, and on which events they could bet—all with the avowed purpose of enabling sports gambling to take place in New Jersey’s casinos and racetracks—the state had “authorized” sports gambling in violation of PASPA.

The full brief can be viewed here.

Christie ‘optimistic’?

The filings come just a day after NJ Gov. Chris Christie said he believed his state would have legal sports betting within a year.

The reason for Christie’s optimism is not at all clear, given the past defeats. But a review by the Supreme Court is the most likely path to sports betting becoming legal at NJ’s racetracks and Atlantic City casinos within the next year.

The filing also comes as chatter of New York attempting a New Jersey-style PASPA challenge ramps up. The new filing even alluded to the possibility of another state attempting to pass a sports betting law:

In all events, there is no question that petitioners’ constitutional challenge remains novel and splitless; indeed, no other state has ever brought such a challenge (and only five states could be mustered to support New Jersey’s case as amici). Accordingly, in the unlikely event that another state raises this argument and then succeeds in producing a circuit split, there will be time enough for this Court to consider it.

The brief from also mapped out a path forward for NJ sports betting:

As the en banc court was at pains to make clear, New Jersey is still free to pass a true repeal that actually eliminates its sports gambling prohibitions entirely, or alters them in other respects that do not run afoul of PASPA.

The political will to pass such a full repeal likely does not exist.

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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.

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