Following this week’s denial of an attempt by the state of New Jersey to appeal its court-denied sportsbetting plans to the US Supreme Court, New Jersey legislators have quickly introduced twin bills that would attempt to override the federal prohibitions against such activity that remain in effect.
On Monday, as previously reported here, New Jersey’s writs of certiorari were denied, meaning that the US Supreme Court won’t listen to an appeal. The writs were for three connected matters in the case that pitted the four major American professional sports leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL) plus the NCAA, against the state, which approved sportsbetting via voter referendum in late 2011.
The sports associations had won a US district appellate decision which left stand a ban implemented under the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which allowed only for pre-existing sports betting, such as Nevada’s, to continue within the US. New Jersey lost its “states right” argument in that case by failing to enact its own sportsbetting back in 1992-93, when it had a one-year window to do so under PASPA’s implementation.
The new bills, S2250 and A3476, are identical draft measures designed to allow sportsbetting through the single loophole left under PASPA: New Jersey cannot implement state-regulated sportsbetting, but it can remove all legal obstacles to the activity and allow it to occur in an unregulated manner. This would involve no oversight by New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) and would generate no tax revenue for the state, but might result in indirect gains via new revenue streams for New Jersey’s beleaguered casino and racetrack industries.
The Senate version of the bill has already received a first reading and was immediately passed, earlier today, on a 38-1 vote. A similar Assembly result would immediately move the bill to the desk of Governor Chris Christie, who might face the threat of legislative override if he vetoed the bill, as happened in the battle over New Jersey’s implementation of online poker.
The new bills would seek to allow the “non-illegal” sportsbetting in only limited venues, those being state-licensed casinos and racetracks. The New Jersey Senate bill, S2250, is sponsored by Ray Lesniak and Jim Whelan. The matching Assembly bill, A3476, is sponsored by Ronald S. Dancer, Vincent Mazzeo, John J. Burzichelli and Celeste M. Riley.
A rough draft of the proposed measure was circulated via various business outlets but was not uploaded to New Jersey’s online legislative site until late on Wednesday. The draft measure, below, clearly references the PASPA loophole as the reason for the bill’s creation.
The text of A2250:
SENATE, No. 2250
Partially repeals prohibitions against sports wagering at racetracks and casinos in New Jersey.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
AN ACT partially repealing prohibitions against sports wagering at racetracks and casinos in this State and supplementing Title 5 of the Revised Statutes.
BE IT ENACTED by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. All prohibitions, including, but not limited to, chapter 37 of Title 2C of the New Jersey Statutes, against wagering on the results of any professional, college, or amateur sport or athletic event, are partially repealed to the extent they would apply to such wagering at casinos or gambling houses in Atlantic City or at current running and harness horse racetracks in this State.
2. This act shall take effect immediately.
This bill is in response to the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (the Court) in National Collegiate Athletic Association, et al. v. Governor of the State of New Jersey, et al., C.A. No. 13-1713, 1714, 1715, dated September 17, 2013, wherein the Court in interpreting the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), 28 U.S.C. § 3701 et seq., stated that it does “not read PASPA to prohibit New Jersey from repealing its ban on sports wagering.” Third Circuit Decision at 73. The Court further stated that “it is left up to each state to decide how much of a law enforcement priority it wants to make of sports gambling, or what the exact contours of the prohibition will be.” Decision at 78-79 (emphasis added). Moreover, the United States in its brief submitted to the Supreme Court of the United States in opposition to petitions for writs of certiorari in the above-referenced case wrote that “PASPA does not even obligate New Jersey to leave in place the state-law prohibitions against sports gambling that it had chosen to adopt prior to PASPA’s enactment. To the contrary, New Jersey is free to repeal those prohibitions in whole or in part.” United States Brief to the Supreme Court in Opposition to Petitions for Writs of Certiorari, dated May 14, 2014, at 11 (emphasis added).
Accordingly, under this bill, New Jersey would decide that its “exact contours of the prohibition” against sports wagering should be to repeal New Jersey’s prohibitions against sports wagering “at casinos or gambling houses in Atlantic City or at current running and harness horse racetracks in this State.”
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