New Jersey’s attempt to legalise sports betting in the manner of Las Vegas continues to face stiff opposition from the powerful sports leagues in the United States. The top four sports organizations viz., NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB, along with the NCAA, have together sued the state of New Jersey after the state had legalised sports betting and horse racing. The legal battle has been going on since 2011 and it shows no sign of being resolved. The sports leagues have told the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that there is absolutely no requirement for the entire court to consider this issue.
The sports leagues are represented in court by retired U.S. solicitor general Paul Clement and they are putting up a spirited fight against New Jersey. There is a constitutional question at stake here, and in case New Jersey were to win the right to legalise sports betting, then a few other states are bound to go down the same path. After all, this is a great way to earn revenue, as the example of Las Vegas amply demonstrates. The income from gambling will be very welcome because it will provide money for government spending programmes that cannot be fitted into the budget otherwise. As of now, the casinos and horse racing tracks in New Jersey are struggling to do business and this is very bad news indeed for the state.
New Jersey’s response to the Appellate Court’s blocking of its bid to conduct sports betting was to ask for an ‘en-banc’ review so that all active judges, 23 in number, could consider its case. The court had directed the leagues to respond to this request, and this in itself was very unusual considering that appeals courts do not often ask for additional information before taking a decision regarding the grant of an en-banc review. In fact, the 3rd Circuit had agreed to accept only one review case last year and only three this year.
The court’s response was viewed as a positive development by the groups supporting legal sports betting. However, Clement maintains that the state, which has spent millions of dollars on the legal battle so far, has made errors in its interpretation of last August’s ruling. According to him, the state has made the mistake of interpreting the ruling as unconstitutionally forcing it to maintain its current sports laws.
The sports leagues have consistently maintained the position that individual sports betting operations run by race tracks and casinos, as proposed by New Jersey, are nothing more that the permission to conduct sports betting and this is in violation of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. It has to be recalled that this law made wagering on sports illegal in most parts of the United States except for Nevada and a few other states. Interestingly, Judge Julio Fuentes, who had ruled against New Jersey previously, took the side of the state earlier this year. The sports betting industry is keeping a close watch on proceedings because there is much at stake here.