Courts rule against NJ sports betting

A federal appeals court was the latest to roadblock New Jersey’s push to legalize sports betting Tuesday.

The three-judge panel upheld an earlier roadblock ruling that the state’s betting law violates federal law and can’t be implemented. But the state has indicated it will take its case to the Supreme Court, because it feels a 20-year-old law is unconstitutional (it gives Nevada and three other states privileges of sports betting but forbids the other 46 states).

The state passed legislation after voters backed a sports betting referendum in 2011 that would see limited bets to the Atlantic City casinos and the state’s horse racing tracks.

Bets on New Jersey colleges or games inside the state would not be permitted, just as Nevada did many years ago with its universities. Full sports betting is permitted only in Nevada, giving that state an unfair advantage over all the others, lawyers have stated.

They attacked PAPSA (the 1992 federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) on constitutional grounds. U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp ruled in March that the best way to change federal sports betting law was through Congress.

Gov. Chris Christie’s office did not issue an immediate response.

The major sports leagues and the NCAA sued the state last year. The NCAA withdrew several of its championship events from New Jersey as a threat (a tactic it has used in the past to discourage Oregon from offering betting).

The leagues offered the same “sanctity of the game” argument, suggesting that match fixing will only begin if sports betting is legalized. The argument ignores the fact that sports betting is already legal in some states and that illegal sports betting is estimated in the billions each year. With so much betting already going on, where is all the match fixing?

MLB commissioner Bud Selig said he was “appalled” by Christie’s actions. Poll a few baseball fans and see if they are appalled by Selig’s actions (or lack of actions) to clean up his own sport.

The judges on Tuesday wrote: “We are cognizant that certain questions related to this case — whether gambling on sporting events is harmful to the games’ integrity and whether states should be permitted to license and profit from the activity — engender strong views. But we are not asked to judge the wisdom of PASPA or of New Jersey’s law, or of the desirability of the activities they seek to regulate. We speak only to the legality of these measures as a matter of constitutional law ... New Jersey’s sports wagering law conflicts with PASPA and, under our Constitution, must yield.”

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