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Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, December 6, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Judge Pins Down Sports Gambling Law in N.J.

(CN) - Athletic leagues persauded a federal judge to permanently block New Jersey from sponsoring and promoting sports gambling at state-licensed racetracks and casinos.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association and all four major professional sports associations sued Gov. Chris Christie and others last month over the Sports Wagering Law, which they called "nothing more than a de facto authorization of sports gambling."

In addition to helping its horse-racing industry out of dire straits, New Jersey's law would benefit its Sports and Exposition Authority, according to the complaint from the NCAA, National Basketball Association, National Football League, National Hockey League, and Major League Baseball.

The leagues had already sued over and defeated a 2012 iteration of the Sports Wagering Law.

Though New Jersey's Senate Bill 2250 purported to "repeal" its prohibitions on sports gambling, the leagues said that the law affected only casinos and racetracks.

"Gov. Christie vetoed that legislation as a transparent attempt to circumvent this court's injunction in Christie and PASPA's prohibitions," the leagues said.

In signing SB S2460 into law on Oct. 17, Christie merely replaced the 2012 Sports Wagering Law with "yet another attempt to authorize sports wagering in Atlantic City casinos and horse racetracks throughout the state," its complaint alleged.

The leagues call this attempt is "just as unlawful" as the state's previous ones.

U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp, the same jurist who blocked the 2012 law from taking effect, issued a temporary restraining order against the 2014 law on Oct. 24.

The court granted the leagues summary judgment on Nov. 21, finding that "PASPA preempts the type of partial repeal New Jersey is attempting to accomplish in the 2014 law, by allowing some, but not all, types of sports wagering in New Jersey, thus creating a label of legitimacy for sports wagering pursuant to a state scheme." (Emphasis in original.)

Shipp also emphasized that the 2014 law "provides no legislative history for the court to examine.":

One of the 2014 law's sponsors did, however, say "that he saw the legislation as 'a short step away from getting this done and a lot closer to bringing sports betting to New Jersey,'" Shipp added.

"As noted above, the goal of PASPA is to 'keep sports gambling from spreading' pursuant to a state scheme," the opinion continues. "New Jersey's attempt to allow sport wagering in only a limited number of places, most of which currently house some type of highly regulated gambling by the state, coupled with New Jersey's history of attempts to circumvent PASPA, leads to the conclusion that the 2014 law is in direct conflict with the purpose and goal of PASPA and is therefore preempted."

New Jersey is permanently enjoined from enacting the 2014 law, the court said.

"The leagues have demonstrated irreparable harm in that the 2014 Law was enacted in violation of and is preempted by PASPA," Shipp wrote. "This violation constitutes irreparable harm requiring the issuance of a permanent injunction, and there are no factual issues that need to be decided, contrary to the [New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association's] NJTHA's assertion at oral argument, to make a finding of irreparable harm in this case."

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