If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again, right?
This week, Assembleymen Ralph Caputo and John Burzichelli introduced Assembly Bill 4303, which would legalize sports betting throughout New Jersey.
Caputo and Burzichelli’s legislation isn’t the first of its kind though. A 2011 attempt to legalize sports betting in New Jersey was passed by the statehouse and signed by Gov. Chris Christie in 2012. However, the NFL, NHL, MLB, NBA and the NCAA launched a lawsuit against the state, on the grounds that it violated a federal sports betting law, PASPA. The law was struck down in court over the course of several appeals.
A different law to legalize sports betting was enacted in 2014, and it has also failed in court challenges to date. The court decisions against the NJ sports betting law are being appealed to the Supreme Court.
Bill seeks to counter PASPA barrier
To understand how New Jersey came to this point, you have to go back to 1992 and the passage of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which is more commonly known by its acronym (PASPA) or as the Bradley Act. (It was authored by Sen. Bill Bradley.)
However, the passage of PASPA didn’t outlaw sports gambling in the entire United States. Nevada, Oregon, Montana, and Delaware were grandfathered in because they’d already legalized some forms of sports betting.
Interestingly, PASPA allowed states to legalize sports betting within one year of the bill’s passage. New Jersey lawmakers attempted to do so, but the bill did not succeed, and New Jersey stood with the 45 other non-sports betting states.
How New Jersey’s bill comes into play
The bill proposed by Caputo and Burzichelli tries to skirt federal law in PASPA. The synopsis of the new bill says it “removes and repeals all prohibitions, permits, licenses, and authorizations concerning wagers on professional, collegiate, or amateur sport contests or athletic events.”
In essence, the bill would allow anyone to offer sports betting — not just racetracks and casinos in the state — in an unregulated environment. How likely such an effort would be politically is in question.
The bill itself is short. It contains four brief sections that specify the extent of the repeal and clarify the meaning of collegiate sports contests/athletic events and running/harness horse tracks. The bill also states that, if approved, it will go into effect 90 days after passage.
ESPN‘s Dave Purdum alluded to the fact that the bill could just be a way for New Jersey to bandage its economic wounds. “Assembly Bill 4303 marks the beginning of New Jersey’s latest effort to spark its ailing casino and horse racing industry with legal sports betting,” Purdum wrote.
Caputo spoke with Purdum for the article, expressing a whimsically pessimistic attitude. He was quoted as saying he knows the bill in its current form isn’t going to pass, that doing so would take a lot of work.
Experts say the repeal is a long shot and the best hope for legal sports betting will take place in Congress, not via another law passed in Trenton.