New Jersey’s Republican governor, Chris Christie, signed the state law in January 2012. But the NCAA, the NFL, the NBA, the NHL and Major League Baseball filed suit last August to halt the sports betting, calling it illegal under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.
The Justice Department later joined the leagues’ lawsuit. On. Feb. 28, U.S. District Court Judge Michael A. Shipp granted the leagues’ request for a permanent injunction.
The 1992 federal ban on sports gambling, which former New Jersey senator Bill Bradley is credited with championing, does not prohibit parimutuel betting on horse racing, dog racing or jai alai. The law exempted four states — Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana — that had existing sports gambling laws at the time. It also gave New Jersey a one-year opportunity to legalize sports betting, but the state failed to act in time.
Only in Nevada are bets on individual games legal. When Delaware attempted to expand its parlay betting to single-game betting, it lost in court in 2009.
New Jersey argued in the current case that the federal law is unconstitutional because it treats states differently from one another. The state also contended that the law does not fall under Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce and violates the 10th Amendment, which gives powers to the states unless the Constitution specifically awards them to the federal government.
“It’s inherently unconstitutional to give one state a right that you don’t give another,” Pascrell said.
The judge rejected those arguments, writing that the federal sports betting ban “is a reasonable expression of Congress’ powers and is therefore constitutional.”
Feldman said: “All the court had to find was that Congress had a rational basis for [exemptions for some states], and that’s what the court found. If New Jersey and other states are going to keep fighting this because of the revenue possibilities that are out there, for now it seems they’re going to have to find a way other than the courtroom. Their best bet, pardon the pun, may be with Congress itself.”
Help from Congress?
Such an effort is underway in the U.S. House of Representatives. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) and Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) introduced legislation last month that would make sports betting legal in New Jersey.
Pallone said in a written statement then that New Jersey “must be allowed to move forward with sports gaming and bring much needed revenue to the state.” LoBiondo added in a written statement that legalizing sports gambling “would strengthen Atlantic City in the face of stiff competition, giving it an additional edge to attract visitors and critical tourism dollars.”