Judge sides with leagues, blocks sports betting in New Jersey

Mar 1, 2013 |
New Jersey will likely take the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals Third Circuit.
New Jersey will likely take the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals Third Circuit.
A New Jersey judge has ruled in favor of four pro sports leagues and the NCAA, upholding the law which prohibits the state from going forward in its plan for legal sports betting.

U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp denied New Jersey’s claim that the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which prohibits sports betting in all but four grandfathered states, is a violation of the state’s sovereignty and unconstitutional.

“Although some of the questions raised in this case are novel, judicial intervention is generally unwarranted no matter how unwise a court considers a policy decision of the legislative branch,” Shipp wrote in his opinion late Thursday night. “As such, to the extent the people of New Jersey disagree with PASPA, their remedy is not through passage of a state law or through the judiciary, but through the repeal or amendment of PASPA in Congress.”

The next move for the state is to move the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals Third Circuit in Philadelphia.

New Jersey’s referendum to allow sports betting received 64 percent of the vote back in November 2011 and Governor Chris Christie swiftly made it a state law. However, the pro sports leagues and NCAA filed a case against New Jersey in August and Shipp ruled that the leagues may challenge the state in late December. The U.S. Department of Justice jumped on the pile in January, joining the case against N.J. to defend the PASPA.

“The Court begins its analysis of these issues with the time-honored presumption that PASPA, enacted by a co-equal branch of government, is constitutional,” Shipp wrote. “Moreover, the Court is required to adopt an interpretation that would deem the statute constitutional so long as that reading is reasonable. Pursuant to this mandate, the Court has determined that PASPA is a reasonable expression of Congress’ powers and is therefore constitutional.”

The PASPA prohibits sports betting in all but 46 states, excluding Delaware, Oregon, Montana, and Nevada – the only state to offer single-game wagering. One of the league’s biggest arguments was that the progression of sports betting beyond those grandfathered states would threaten the integrity of the sports and tarnish their reputation with fans, claiming it would open the door for match fixing.

“PASPA was enacted to prevent the spread of legalized sports gambling and safeguard the integrity of professional and amateur sports. The Senate Judiciary Committee has concluded that sports gambling is a ‘national problem’ that in the absence of federal legislation would spread throughout the country unabashedly," Shipp stated.

New Jersey was given a chance to become one of the grandfathered states and offer sports gambling within a year during the creation of the PASPA in 1992 but declined to do so.

Nevada sportsbooks recently celebrated a record handle for the third straight year in 2012, taking in $3.4 billion in bets, and earned a total of $170 million – the second-highest win amount in the history of the state.
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