The fight for legal sports betting in the Garden State started up once again on Tuesday as the state squared off against the US Department of Justice, professional sports leagues, and the NCAA.
The fight for legalized sports betting in New Jersey dates back several years. In 2011, voters overwhelmingly supported legalizing sports betting through referendum. Since then, the will of the people has been met with closed doors.
Their most recent defeat was in late November of last year. U.S. District Court Judge Michael Shipp found in favor of the four professional leagues and the NCCA. He issued a permanent injunction against New Jersey from allowing racetracks and casinos to offer sports betting.
The state instantly appealed this decision, which brings us to the start of Tuesday’s case. The Federal panel of judges hearing the case included Justice Maryanne Trump Barry, the sister of Donald Trump and Marjorie Rendell, the wife of former Pennsylvania governor, Ed Rendell.
PAPSA Center Stage
The discussion centered around the 23-year-old law that outlaws all sports betting, aside from sports lotteries in Oregon, Delaware, and Montana and traditional sports betting in Nevada. New Jersey’s fight is the biggest challenge to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in history.
Theodore Olson led the fight for the state and argued that New Jersey’s laws were perfectly legal under PAPSA. Justice Rendell asked for clarification on this issue, questioning the difference between the state authorizing sports betting and a blanket repeal of all sports betting laws.
Olson’s counter to that argument was the “hands-off approach” that the state had in terms of sports gambling. Yes, sports betting would be legal at racetracks and casinos, but there are many activities that go on inside these establishments that the state doesn’t control.
Olson noted the state wouldn’t have any overnight or regulations if sports betting had been authorized in barber shops. He stated, “The license goes to the activity; it doesn’t go to other activities that might take place in that venue.”
When asked by Justice Julio Fuentes what the state’s role was in regulating sports betting, Olson answer with a firm, “zero.”
US Solicitor General Paul Clement spoke on behalf of the professional leagues and the NCAA. Clement’s argued that New Jersey’s partial repeal was essentially the de facto authorization of sports betting in the state, which is strictly prohibited by PAPSA.
He told judges, “I think a partial repeal that keeps the vast, vast majority of the prohibition in place and then selects not just the favorite venues, but then also tries to dictate who can engage in sports gambling and what games they’re going to be able to bet, at that point, that little tiny, tiny hole in the donut is still a product of the state law.”
Olson maintains that is not the case. He stated that the Sports Wagering Law passed was not a full-on authorization, but rather a calculated partial repeal that still held restrictions. Under the law, the minimum age for betting would 21 years of age, wagering must take at the state’s racetracks or casinos and there would be no action taken on college athletics from state schools.
Chances of Victory?
This is yet another uphill battle for New Jersey in this case, but they’ve gotten used to that by now. After the oral arguments, the Judges praised both sides for a well-argued case, but those words have been uttered before.
The court’s decision is expected sometime in June, and while New Jersey is still an underdog to come out victorious, this is their best shot so far to prevail. They certainly didn’t hurt themselves with yesterday’s arguments and may have improved their position.
Also, while Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association are plaintiffs in the case, their positions have both evolved over the last few months. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has expressed his support for a legal betting climate on several occasions and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has expressed similar support.
Author: Joseph Falchetti
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