New Jersey Looks to US Supreme Court in Sports Betting Case

on August 9, 2016
New Jersey sports betting Dennis Drazin

Dennis Drazin’s Monmouth Park horse racetrack in New Jersey features a sportsbook that can’t offer any odds. (Image: Aaron Houston/njbiz.com)

New Jersey sports betting has been shot down by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, but the fight isn’t over.

On Tuesday, the federal appeals court said New Jersey’s wishes to legalize gambling on sports is in violation of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) that dates back to 1992.

Passed in 2014 and signed by Governor Chris Christie (R), the sports betting legislation would have authorized casinos in Atlantic City and the state’s three horse racetracks to offer odds on sports.

Judge Marjorie Rendell, wife of former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, had previously ruled against New Jersey in the case during a three-judge opinion. But the Third Circuit motioned for an en banc hearing, bringing 12 justices to the courtroom in February to listen to the evidence.

To overturn Rendell’s earlier verdict, seven of the 12 would have needed to back New Jersey over the prosecution led by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Almost six months after the sides argued their positions, the Third Circuit sided 10-2 with the prosecution.

“The 2014 law provides the authorization for conduct that is otherwise clearly and completely legally prohibited,” Rendell stated in the court’s written opinion. “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.”

Lesniak Presses On

The ruling this week is yet another serious setback for Atlantic City, a town that desperately needs something to entice visitors. Carl Icahn recently announced that he’ll lose almost $100 million by closing the Trump Taj Mahal, the fifth New Jersey casino to shutter in the last three years.

“We were relying on having sports betting to give a big boost to our ailing Atlantic City casinos and our suffering racetracks,” State Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-District 20) told Reuters. “It’s just wrong for Congress to deny New Jersey what the state of Nevada has.”

Four states were grandfathered into sports betting when PASPA was passed. Oregon, Delaware, Montana, and Nevada were exempted from the law, though only the latter is currently taking advantage of the privilege.

Lesniak said he will ask the US Supreme Court to consider the case, though he admits its odds of being accepted are slim.

Mammoth Monmouth Blow

Horse racing is struggling throughout the country, and that reality holds true in the Garden State.

As OnlineGambling.com reported, Paddy Power Betfair is trying to revolutionize horse wagering in the US. Its innovative live in-race betting format is wildly popular in the UK, and the exchange wagering method is starting to take hold at domestic tracks.

Dennis Drazin, president of Darby Development, which manages Monmouth Park in New Jersey, is one such owner embracing change. Drazin’s track uses the Paddy Power Betfair betting network, but he was hoping to also offer sports betting.

Monmouth invested $1 million to construct the William Hill Race & Sports Book in 2014.

The lounge features dozens of televisions and seats next to a bar with drink and food service. The facility is turnkey ready for sports gambling, but for now the bet won’t be paying off.