NJ Legal Sports Betting FAQ
Legal Sports Report

New Jersey Sports Betting

New Jersey is already a forerunner for US gambling; it’s the home of Atlantic City and it has had NJ online casino games for years. It’s also the epicenter for the future of legal sports betting in the United States.

The latest development: The US Supreme Court agreed to hear New Jersey’s case in its ongoing efforts to legalize sports wagering. Oral arguments in the case took place on Dec. 4.

The state passed a law in 2014 allowing sports betting within the state’s borders, but legal challenges have kept it from taking effect.

The state lost its latest appeal in the summer of 2016. Here’s a closer look at the case and the background of sports betting in New Jersey.

The New Jersey sports betting case, at a glance

The New Jersey sports betting case got its day in front of the Supreme Court with oral arguments in December of 2017. The state bucked long odds, as SCOTUS hears only a small percentage of the appeals brought before it.

The appeal was lodged in October of 2016. In May of 2017, the US Solicitor General told SCOTUS that it should not take up the appeal.

How did we get here? A rehearing in the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals took place on Feb. 17.

The rehearing was the second time the court heard the case, this time with an “en banc” panel of active judges hearing the case, a rare move for courts of this level. New Jersey lost for the second time in this court, with nine judges siding against the state, and three dissenters.

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

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

Here is some of the background on the Supreme Court appeal:

The briefs in the NJ sports betting case

Here is the link to the SCOTUS case docket.

What happened at the NJ sports betting rehearing

Reporters and lawyers who attended the hearing believed it did not go very well for New Jersey at the time. The tenor of the judges hearing the case led to the belief that many would side with the leagues.

Audio of the rehearing is here.

Here is some of the coverage leading up to and after the rehearing:

History of the NJ sports betting case

In 2014, New Jersey had passed a law in which it partially repealed its own sports betting ban, allowing wagering to take place in the state. The leagues then banded together to challenge the law in court and prevent it from going into effect.

At issue at was how New Jersey’s sports betting law intersected with the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which more or less banned sports betting except in limited instances, most notably Nevada.

The courts, so far, have ruled that the New Jersey law allowing sports betting is a violation of PASPA.

After the August defeat, New Jersey requested an “en banc” rehearing, in which all the active justices would be called upon to consider the case.

That request was not initially dismissed, as the court asked for the plaintiffs in the case — the major professional sports leagues in the US along with the Department of Justice and the NCAA — to respond to New Jersey’s petition. In their response, the NFL and the other leagues noted it believed there was no conflict to address in the wake of a dissenting opinion on the original appeal.

New Jersey, however, got its wish to get the rehearing.

In 2012, New Jersey has passed a law regulating sports betting in the state and the sports leagues filed suit. New Jersey lost this case under PASPA, as well, although a Third Circuit opinion said that the state could decriminalize sports betting, but not regulate it.

Key NJ sports betting documents

Here are some of the filings and other important documents from the case:

Docket for Supreme Court caseDocket
Third Circuit rehearing majority and dissenting opinions.Opinions
Third Circuit rehearing order, Oct. 2015Order
Third Circuit opinions (Christie II), Aug. 2015Opinion
New Jersey sports betting lawNJ code
Third Circuit ruling (Christie I), 2013Ruling
Professional and Amateur Sports Protection ActPASPA

NJ Sports Betting FAQ

Here are some questions and answers about the NJ sports betting case:

What happens next in the Supreme Court case?

Over the course of the summer, briefs will be filed by the state and the plaintiffs. Here’s a timeline of how things will go down.

We’re not sure exactly when the court will hear the case, but the end of 2017 seems to be a good bet. A decision likely won’t be handed down until sometime in 2018.

Who could offer NJ sports betting?

If New Jersey ever wins its case, any casino or racetrack in the state could offer sports betting. That includes all of the licensed properties in Atlantic City, as well the three racetracks: Monmouth Park, The Meadlowlands, and Freehold.

Initially, Monmouth Park was the only site set to introduce sports betting when the law was passed initially. However, if New Jersey wins, it’s safe to assume all of the gaming establishments in the state will eventually offer wagering.

Would this legalize NJ online sports betting?

New Jersey is currently one of three states that offers some form of online gambling. NJ online casinos and poker sites have been operating since November 2013.

But it’s unlikely that US sports betting sites would launch as quickly as land-based sportsbooks, even with a positive outcome in SCOTUS.

Will the Supreme Court have an impact on other states?

If SCOTUS finds that PASPA unconstitutional, it opens the door for any state to legalize and regulate sports betting.

Connecticut and Pennsylvania are two states that have come close to passing laws that would legalize sports betting in the event of a change to PASPA, via the courts or Congress. Many more are likely to follow if New Jersey wins.

If New Jersey loses, the status quo will persist for sports betting nationwide.

Can sports betting still happen if New Jersey loses?

After the latest loss for New Jersey, it might mean the only way for states to allow sports betting will be for Congress to repeal the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act — the federal law on which the New Jersey case is centered on.

A number of states have also passed laws regarding daily fantasy sports, which have not yet led to PASPA challenges.

State Sen. Ray Lesniak recently introduced a new bill that would attempt to legalize sports betting even if the state loses in SCOTUS, although its prospects are murky at best.

Dustin Gouker
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.