Supreme Court Likely to Weigh In on NJ’s Sports Betting Row Law
Sports betting is in its peak season with the MLB approaching playoffs, college football and the NFL picking up speed, and fantasy football beginning its fourth week. In an opinion filed on September 17th, three Third Circuit judges upheld the lower court’s decision that the proposed New Jersey Law violated the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). Under the Act, 28 U.S.C.A. § 3702, it is against the law for a governmental entity or a person to “sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license, or authorize by law or compact…a lottery, sweepstakes, or other betting, gambling, or wagering scheme based…on one or more competitive games in which amateur or professional athletes participate…or on one or more performances of such athletes in such games.” The New Jersey Law, supported by New Jersey constituents and the New Jersey legislature, seeks to reserve the right to authorize sports betting in Atlantic City to the New Jersey Legislature. N.J. Const. art. IV, § 7, ¶ 2. To the reasonable person, New Jersey’s law looks like it is in direct conflict with the Federal statute. Because the Appellate Court ruled that PASPA was constitutional on all counts, and that the plaintiffs had sufficient standing to bring a claim, if New Jersey wants a different result it will have to wait for the Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue.
The real question many Garden Staters may have is why their State failed to act under the grandfather clause of PASPA. In a post-Sandy environment, only worsened by the horrific fire this past summer, legalizing sports betting at Atlantic City casinos would bring in much needed revenue. However, because of the grandfather clause states such as Nevada and Delaware are out of reach of PASPA restrictions, which allows states that had sports betting statutes at the time PASPA was passed to keep their laws.
Years after missing the deadline, New Jersey has a tiny bit of hope in Circuit Judge Vanaskie’s dissent. Judge Vanaskie explains that PASPA is unconstitutional because it is a vehicle for the Federal Government to bully the states, therefore violating the separation of powers. To that effect, Judge Vanaskie explains that, “[w]hen New Jersey fails to authorize or license sports gambling, its citizens will understandably blame state officials even though state regulation of gambling has become a puppet of the federal government, whose strings are in reality pulled (or cut) by PASPA.”
Therefore, it is now up New Jersey state officials to appeal to the Supreme Court to hear this issue. Will the Supreme Court decide to hear this case based on the split between Circuit Court Judges? New Jersey will have to play the waiting game just like the thousands of others that will appeal to the Supreme Court for certiorari this year. (The Supreme Court reports receiving around 10,000 petitions each year). For now, sports betting will not bring a source of revenue to the devastated New Jersey areas in need of relief.