New Jersey’s sports betting hopes suffered a setback in court last week, but the state has vowed to continue their fight against the NCAA and major sports leagues in an effort to allow casinos and racetracks there to take bets on games.
Federal District Court Judge Michael Shipp ruled in the leagues’ favor in their lawsuit against New Jersey, saying that the state doesn’t have the right to partially repeal their existing ban on sports betting, as that would violate the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).
The decision didn’t surprise state officials or many who have followed along closely with New Jersey’s previous attempts to approve sports betting in the state.
Judge Shipp had previously made a similar ruling the first time the state attempted to pass sports betting legislation. However, while the judge still sided with the leagues, he also noted that the case was not nearly as clear cut as either side would like to believe.
New Jersey Takes Aim at Loophole in Previous Ruling
In their first round of legal battles, New Jersey was told that they could not regulate sports betting because of PASPA, which passed in 1992 and only grandfathered in four states that already had some form of betting on sports: Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana.
However, while the Third Circuit Court of Appeals also ruled against the state, they noted that New Jersey could legally get away with simply repealing their own prohibitions on sports betting, essentially decriminalizing the activity without actively promoting it.
State officials seized on that language in their most recent attempt to bring sports betting to Atlantic City casinos and race tracks across New Jersey. Lawmakers passed legislation that partially repealed the old laws, keeping some restrictions (such as only allowing adults to place bets) while not stopping licensed gambling operations from offering bets on most professional and college sporting events.
“We’re just following their lead,” State Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-Union County) said, referring to last year’s Third Circuit ruling. “We’ll certainly have a lot better chance before the Third Circuit than we had before Judge Shipp.”
Leagues Say Partial Repeal Amounts to Regulation
The leagues seem to recognize this as well, though they still believe they’re on the right side of the dispute. While it was clear that the Third Circuit ruling would allow New Jersey to completely repeal their sports betting ban, they said, the partial repeal amounts to regulation of the industry.
By only allowing certain locations to offer bets, for instance, the state is setting limits and overseeing the practice to at least some extent. And the fact that the casinos and racetracks are heavily regulated means that the bets they take are regulated too.
Judge Shipp ultimately believed that this interpretation was correct, at least under current law, and that those who want to see sports betting come to states should try to change federal laws first.
“While New Jersey is at the forefront of this movement, many states around the country appear poised to join should New Jersey provide a roadmap around [PASPA],” Judge Shipp wrote in his decision. “New Jersey’s most recent legislation does not provide such a roadmap.”
The decision came just before Shipp’s temporary injunction, one that stopped Monmouth Park racetrack from taking NFL bets, was set to expire.