New Jersey continues to look toward the United States’ judicial system for relief from a quarter-century-old law that prevents it and most other US states from offering state-regulated sports gambling. The latest war of legal words awaits a decision to be released “any day” by the US’s Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which continues to try to find the exact line between what New Jersey can offer and what is forbidden under US federal law.
scales-justiceAs we’ve reported in the past, the United States’ major sports associations, plus the federal government, have successfully turned back nearly four years of legal efforts by New Jersey’s citizens and legislators to allow Nevada- and Europe-style sports betting in the state. Their main weapon: The US’s 1992 PASPA (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) law, which forbids sports betting in the US except for grandfathered states where it already existed.
Only Nevada had true single-team sports wagering at the time PASPA was passed and signed into law. New Jersey, the declining East Coast mecca of US gambling, has long eyed legalized sports betting as a way of recapturing its gambling consumers. Back in 2011 legal sports betting was approved in a voter referendum, and ever since, the state’s lawmakers have sought to find a way to move forward with that voter mandate, only to be stymied by the leagues and the US feds at every turn.
The 2015 edition of the New Jersey sports-betting legal way follows a ruling last November by US District Judge Michael J. Shipp, that invalidated the latest law passed by the state to find a way to let sportsbetting move forward. Within just three days New Jersey had appealed that ruling, in which Shipp stated that PASPA only forbids most US states from actively creating a regulatory framework under which legal sports betting can occur, but declared New Jersey’s law in violation of PASPA without exactly declaring why.
What Shipp declined to specify in his ruling was the very nature of the hair he was splitting: What must be included in or removed from any laws that New Jersey might pass to exercise their own state-level rights regarding sports gambling, thus nullifying PASPA in the process. The state’s appeal is an attempt to force the US federal judicial system to either clarify those circumstances or to declare PASPA unconstitutional; either outcome is okay by New Jersey’s interests.
Most of the activity in this latest appellate battle took place back in March. The three-judge appellate court heard oral arguments from the state on one side and the opposing leagues and the DOJ on the other back in March, but the Phuladelphia-based panel has yet to issue its ruling. Since then, the docket for the case shows only a couple of minutae — departures of a couple of lawyers (one each in May and June) from the healthy phalanx of high-priced legal counsel the five US sports associations have at their disposal.
It’s also interesting to note that National Basketball Association remains a party to the suit, against New Jersey’s plans, along with the NFL, NCAA, NHL and MLB. New NBA commish Adam Silver likely wants to see PASPA dispensed with as well, but he clearly wants to see a modernized federal framework put into place. However, Silver’s preferences, as with PASPA itself, exist as something of an anomaly in the US, where individual states have always had the final say on gaming laws within their borders.