New Jersey Sports Betting Halted by Major League Injunction

on October 28, 2014
New Jersey sports betting injunction

Monmouth Park would have taken NFL bets on Sunday if not for a temporary restraining order on New Jersey sports betting. (Image: Monmouth Park)

Plans to start offering New Jersey sports betting on Sunday ground to a halt after a federal judge issued an injunction stopping the state from allowing bets to be taken at Monmouth Park racetrack.

On Friday, Judge Michael Shipp issued the restraining order requested by the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and the NCAA, saying that the leagues would suffer irreparable harm if the betting were to go forward.

“More legal gambling leads to more total gambling, which in turn leads to an increased incentive to fix plaintiffs’ matches,” Shipp wrote in his opinion.

NJ Seeks to Work Around PASPA

That ruling came about a week after Governor Chris Christie signed a bill that repealed laws that banned sports betting in New Jersey. The idea was to allow casino and racetracks to offer sports betting, without explicitly endorsing it or regulating the practice. This, the state believes, will allow it to get around previous rulings that found New Jersey in violation of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).

However, the sports leagues disagree, saying that PASPA still bans the state from allowing any sports betting whatsoever. Even if New Jersey’s interpretation of previous rulings is correct, they say, the state regulates both the casino industry and racetracks, meaning that it implicitly regulates any bets those organizations take as well.

Officials in New Jersey were predictably disappointed by the ruling, but vowed to continue battling on when the full case made its way into the courtroom.

“This is a temporary order while the core issues surrounding sports wagering in New Jersey are fully considered by the Court,” said Michael Drewniak, a spokesperson for Governor Christie. “We continue to have full confidence in the strength and appropriateness of our position as we move forward in the litigation.”

Lesniak Thinks State May Win on Appeal

State Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-Union County) offered similar sentiments. Lesniak doubts that the state will find success with Judge Shipp, but believes New Jersey may have more luck on appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

“The judge bought it,” Lesniak said of Shipp’s ruling that the leagues would have suffered irreparable harm if the injunction hadn’t been granted. “That’s why I’m not optimistic about the judge ultimately ruling in our favor.”

Lesniak also left open the possibility that casinos and racetracks might be allowed to bet on sports other than those from the leagues that filed for the injunction. In particular, he expects that betting on international soccer could be a great boon for Atlantic City.

“I believe betting on soccer will be a big attraction for New Jersey,” Lesniak said. “Can you imagine Portugal playing Spain, what a big attraction that would be?”

Meanwhile, Monmouth Park said that while the injunction prevented it from taking bets on football this weekend, the race course still expects to offers sports betting sooner rather than later.

“While we are disappointed not to be able to start this Sunday, we are confident that sports betting will be coming to New Jersey in the very near future,” said Dennis Drazin, a Monmouth Park legal consultant. “We have prepared for this event for quite some time and have stated from the onset that we will be ready on Day One. While that won’t be this Sunday, we remain committed to that promise and will be operational as soon as possible.”