New Jersey’s Ongoing Fight For Sports Betting Continues

The state of New Jersey was represented at the United States Court of Appeals on February 17 to ask for the federal ban on sports betting to be lifted. The state has been trying to work around the federal ban since 2012, when NJ passed a law repealing part of a sports betting law restricting wagering. It’s not surprising that the state is seeking a repeal of the US sports betting ban; New Jersey has been incredibly progressive when it comes to state regulated gambling.

The state was one of the first to offer Internet wagering, with legal and regulated NJ online gambling sites launching after the industry was forced to leave the rest of the United States following the passage of the UIGEA and Black Friday, which shuttered grey market poker sites.

All major US sports leagues and the NCAA went after NJ in the courts to prevent the 2012 law from being enacted. The leagues claimed that NJ’s law would violate the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). PASPA prevents government regulated sports betting in almost every U.S. state.

Four states are exempt from PASPA, but only one of them –  Nevada – takes full advantage of its exemption and offers a large number of wagering options on virtually every sport imaginable. Other states exempt from PASPA include Delaware, Montana, and Oregon, but their offerings are extremely limited by comparison.

New Jersey’s 2012 attempt to get around PASPA was ultimately shot down by the courts, which sided with the leagues. However, NJ has refused to give up on its pursuit of legalized sports betting. In October 2015, NJ requested and was granted another hearing about the case which began on February 17.

What happened during New Jersey’s hearing?

Twelve judges heard the arguments in favor of NJ’s request to operate regulated sportsbooks within its state borders. NJ specifically wishes to operate the books within the state’s casinos and racetracks. The state needs a 7-5 vote to pass the repeal.

The argument that NJ made in the hearing focused heavily on the belief that PASPA is unconstitutional. Further, the state argues that it is merely trying to remove the prohibition on sports betting, not position the law so that a particular activity can occur.

After NJ concluded its testimony, the sports leagues presented their arguments against New Jersey’s request. The leagues maintain the argument that a partial repeal would violate PASPA and that other states would also want to become exempt from the law and, therefore, undermine it.

What other organizations are pushing for PASPA’s repeal?

Something that could potentially help New Jersey’s case is that a Pennsylvania house committee recently passed a resolution that calls for the end of sports betting prohibition. House Resolution 619 passed a full house committee by a vote of 23-1 in February. The resolution asks that the United States Congress lift the federal ban on sports betting and allow states to decide whether or not to offer it.

The resolution focuses on the fact that PASPA is inefficient and arguably unconstitutional. Pennsylvania feels that the law encourages illegal activity and does not prevent illegal wagers from taking place.

The American Gaming Association (AGA) has also sided with NJ and has even conducted studies on America’s desire to partake in legalized sports betting. In January, the AGA began pro-sports betting advertisements alongside results from a study that showed how many Americans want to bet on the Super Bowl. Another point that the AGA made was that PASPA does not discourage sports betting and, therefore, creates an unregulated and dangerous market.

About the Author

Rudee Rossignol

Las Vegas-based Rudee writes about a variety of topics, all surrounding regulated U.S. online gambling. A longtime poker player, she offers an on-the-ground take on Internet gaming matters.