Briefs In New Jersey’s Supreme Court Betting Case Call PASPA Unconstitutional

[toc]It may seem like not much is happening in the state of New Jersey’s Supreme Court challenge of the Professional and Amateur Sport Protection Act (PASPA).

The news may be few and far between, but the behind-the-scenes action is bustling, especially last week when the major parties in the case hit the deadline for filing briefs.

New Jersey brief calls law “manifestly unconstitutional”

Several parties filed briefs before the Aug. 29 deadline. One came in under Gov. Chris Christie’s name, as he is representing the state in this case. The crux of Christie’s argument is that PASPA violates the 10th Amendment, which assures states’ rights. As New Jersey argues, this law flies in the face of the amendment with its overreach regarding sports betting.

From the brief:

One of the “essential postulates” derived from the “structure of the Constitution,” is that “state legislatures are not subject to federal direction.” … PASPA compels States to regulate—indeed, prohibit—sports wagering and therefore exceeds Congress’s authority…And later: Under our Constitution, if Congress wishes for sports wagering to be illegal, it must make the activity unlawful itself. It cannot compel States to do so.

In 2011, residents of New Jersey approved of bringing sports betting to the state via voter referendum. The following year, Christie signed a bill into law. The sports leagues took the state to court, and the court sided with the leagues.

As the brief lays out, New Jersey effectively did not have the ability to make laws in its own state without the federal government interfering. As such, the state hopes SCOTUS will strike down the entirety of PASPA.

Briefs from other pro-betting parties in the case tow a similar line.

DFS caught in the crossfire

When talking about the problems PASPA creates, inevitably daily fantasy sports (DFS) came up too. In the brief filed on behalf of co-plaintiff the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NJTHA), the group takes direct aim at the perceved unfair treatment the fantasy industry receives.

More specifically, NJTHA points out how the major sports leagues more than turn a blind eye to fantasy. In fact, many leagues have financial partnerships with DFS operators.

An excerpt from the NJTHA brief:

The Leagues’ full-throated endorsement of Fantasy and DFS demonstrates the pernicious consequences that can follow when Congress tries to avoid political accountability for its actions by granting discretionary enforcement powers to private persons who may have self-interests that are at odds with a statute’s, such as PASPA’s, purposes.

The Leagues, thus, hypocritically stand before this Court profiting from an activity that 41 PASPA expressly prohibits while at the same time using PASPA to stop the NJTHA from operating a sports betting venue at Monmouth Park that has the potential to save jobs, save the New Jersey equine industry, and preserve open spaces.

Christie recently signed a fantasy sports bill into law, so it is not like the end goal is to bring DFS down. Rather, the case is about putting DFS on the same footing as sports betting, where the Garden State thinks it belongs. Now it is a matter of getting five Supreme Court Justices on its side.

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About the Author

Jessica Welman

Jessica Welman is a longtime member of the poker media and online gambling world. She has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and served as the managing editor for Welman has been involved for livestreams for the WSOP and WPT and worked as a consultant on many other poker productions. She can be found on Twitter @jesswelman.