TRENTON, N.J. (CN) – The NCAA, NBA, NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball sued Gov. Chris Christie in Federal Court, for signing a law that allows betting on pro and college sports at New Jersey casinos and racetracks.
The leagues claim New Jersey’s Sports Gambling Law (N.J.S.A. 5:12-1, et seq.) violates the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or PASPA, (28 U.S.C. § 3701 et seq.)
Christie signed the law on Jan. 17. The state published proposed regulations on July 2 and after the public comment period ends on Aug. 31, the law is expected to take effect. Then, “Atlantic City casinos and racetracks across New Jersey will be able to apply for licenses and commence gambling operations on amateur and professional complaints,” the sports organizations say in their complaint.
“This is an action challenging New Jersey’s plan to sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license and authorize gambling on amateur and professional sports, in clear and flagrant violation of federal law,” the complaint begins.
The NCAA and the pro leagues say such gambling would not only “harm sports leagues and organizations like the NCAA, the NBA, the NFL, the NHL and MLB,” but would be a “flagrant violation” of PASPA, which was “enacted by Congress in 1992 in order to halt the spread of gambling on sporting events in the United States.”
The leagues also sued the Director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement and Assistant Attorney General David Rebuck, and Executive Director of the New Jersey Racing Commission Frank Zanzuccki.
“PASPA was enacted on October 28, 1992 amid growing public concern over the significant harm that would result from the spread of gambling on amateur and professional sporting events in the United States,” the complaint states.
After PASPA took effect, New Jersey was given one year to authorize sports betting in the state. “New Jersey declined the opportunity,” the complaint states.
The leagues claim that under PASPA, “New Jersey is expressly barred by federal law from sponsoring, operating, advertising, promoting, licensing or authorizing sports-based gambling.”
But New Jersey’s new “Sports Gambling Law provides that licensed casino or gambling houses located in Atlantic City, and horse racetracks in New Jersey, may operate ‘sports pools’ – ‘the business of accepting wagers on any sports event by any system or method of wagering’ – upon the approval of the Division of Gaming Enforcement (for casinos) or the New Jersey Racing Commission (for racetracks) and in accordance with applicable regulations promulgated pursuant to statute. In addition, the Division of Gaming Enforcement was authorized to issue licenses to operate sports betting parlors, and to regulate sports pools and the conduct of sports wagering permitted by the Sports Gambling Law,” the complaint states.
“Once the Sports Gambling Regulations are adopted and become effective, which is expected to occur by mid-September or early October at the latest, New Jersey state officials will begin accepting applications for licenses to engage in sports betting in New Jersey.”
According to the complaint, Christie said at a May 24 news conference: “We intend to go forward and allow sports gambling to happen, and if someone wants to stop us, then they’ll have to take action to try to stop us. But I’ve signed the legislation this year to authorize it. The regulations now will allow us to implement sports gaming. We intend to work with the casino industry here in Atlantic City and with folks in the horse racing industry to get it implemented by this fall. Now, am I expecting that there may be some legal action taken against us to try and prevent it? Yes. But that’s going to be their burden to try to prevent it. That’s why we’re doing it the way we’re doing it. So I have every confidence that we’re going to be successful. We may have to go through some litigation to get there … but I think we’re going to be successful.” (Ellipsis in complaint.)
The sports leagues say they have “consistently opposed legalizing sports gambling in other states and at the federal level because it undermines the public’s faith and confidence in the character of amateur and professional sports teams.”
They add: “Amateur and professional sports are an integral part of American culture, particularly among the country’s youth who often look up to athletes as role models. The sponsorship, operation, advertising, promotion, licensure, and authorization of sports gambling in New Jersey would irreparably harm amateur and professional sports by fostering suspicion that individual plays and final scores of games may have been influenced by factors other than honest athletic competition. As Congress recognized when it enacted PASPA, the proliferation of sports gambling threatens to harm the reputation and goodwill of plaintiffs, and to adversely affect the way the public views amateur and professional sports. Plaintiffs cannot be compensated in money damages for the harm that sports gambling poses to the character and integrity of their respective sporting events. Once their reputations and goodwill have been compromised, and the bonds of loyalty and devotion between fans and teams have been broken, plaintiffs will have been irreparably injured in a manner that cannot be measured in dollars.”
They want the Sports Gambling Law enjoined.
They are represented by William O’Shaughnessy, with McCarter & English, of Newark.