New Jersey’s bid to legalize sports betting denied

10:11 AM ET

A U.S. appeals court ruled in favor of the four major professional sports leagues and the NCAA on Tuesday, denying New Jersey’s quest to legalize sports betting.

The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia found that New Jersey’s most recent attempt to bring Las Vegas-style sports betting to its casinos and horse racing tracks violated the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), the 24-year-old federal prohibition on state-sponsored sports betting.

The court battle between New Jersey and the sports leagues has been ongoing for years. In January 2012, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation that authorized the state to offer legal sports betting. The state got as far as posting sports betting regulations on the gaming enforcement’s website in the spring of 2012, before the leagues filed suit.

The sports leagues won every step of the way during a legal battle that featured an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and deposition testimony by the commissioners for the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball.

After the Supreme Court declined to take the case, New Jersey passed a new version of its sports betting law that was once again contested by the leagues. This phase of the battle earned a rare en banc rehearing in the Third Circuit. All 12 judges heard oral arguments in February.

Ten of the judges ruled in favor of the sports leagues. Judges Julio Fuentes and Thomas Vanaskie offered dissenting opinions.

“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,” Judge Marjorie Rendell wrote in the court’s 12-page opinion.

New Jersey’s not done fighting yet, though. State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, who has spearheaded the sports betting effort, says he will ask the Supreme Court to hear the case and examine additional opportunities within the state.

“It’s a long shot, but at least we have two dissenting votes on our side,” Lesniak said Tuesday morning, after reviewing the Third Circuit’s opinion.

“Second, I’m going to test the public’s, legislature’s and the governor’s temperature on repealing all our laws on sports betting and using the extensive police powers of the state to restrict the locations where sports betting can take place, for instance, like we do with gentlemen’s clubs. I’ll also beef up our office of consumer affairs to closely oversee the operations to protect the consumer.”



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