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Pro Sport Leagues Sack Christie’s Gambling Law

(CN) - New Jersey casinos and racetracks cannot permit sports gambling, as federal law rightly bars such an expansion, the divided 3rd Circuit ruled.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association, the National Basketball Association, the National Football League, the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball had taken aim at the New Jersey Sports Wagering Law in an August 2012 federal complaint.

In signing the law earlier that year, Gov. Chris Christie legalized gambling on professional, college or amateur sports at casinos and racetracks in the Garden State.

The leagues claimed, however, that the move violated the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), which prevents the development of state-sponsored sports wagering.

They also named Gaming Enforcement Director David Rebuck and Racing Commission Executive Director Frank Zanzuccki as defendants.

After U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp refused to dismiss the case, the state and an intervening defendant, the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, filed briefs challenging PASPA's constitutionality. The federal government was next to intervene, urging the court to uphold the act.

Shipp granted the leagues summary judgment and blocked the New Jersey law from going into effect Feb. 28.

Christie and the other state officials then filed an expedited appeal, but a divided three-judge panel of the 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia affirmed last week.

"Accepting New Jersey's arguments on the merits would require us to take several extraordinary steps, including: invalidating for the first time in our circuit's jurisprudence a law under the anti-commandeering principle, a move even the U.S. Supreme Court has only twice made; expanding that principle to suspend commonplace operations of the Supremacy Clause over state activity contrary to federal laws; and making it harder for Congress to enact laws pursuant to the Commerce Clause if such laws affect some states differently than others," Judge Julio Fuentes wrote for the panel.

Judge Thomas Vanaskie argued in a partial dissent that PASPA "violates the principles of federalism."

"We hold that nothing in PASPA violates the U.S. Constitution," Fuentes wrote. "The law neither exceeds Congress' enumerated powers nor violates any principle of federalism implicit in the Tenth Amendment or anywhere else in our Constitutional structure. The heart of appellants' constitutional attack on PASPA is their reliance on two doctrines that - while of undeniable importance - have each only been used to strike down notably intrusive and, indeed, extraordinary federal laws. Extending these principles as appellants propose would result in significant changes to the day-to-day operation of the Supremacy Clause in our constitutional structure. Moreover, we see much daylight between the exceedingly intrusive statutes invalidated in the anti-commandeering cases and PASPA's much more straightforward mechanism of stopping the states from lending their imprimatur to gambling on sports."

Fuentes later added: "New Jersey and any other state that may wish to legalize gambling on sports within their borders are not left without redress. Just as PASPA once gave New Jersey preferential treatment in the context of gambling on sports, Congress may again choose to do so or, more broadly, may choose to undo PASPA altogether. It is not our place to usurp Congress' role simply because PASPA may have become an unpopular law. The 49 states that do not enjoy PASPA's solicitude may easily invoke Congress' authority should they so desire. "

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