After New Jersey lost its appeal in the battle to legalize sports betting in the state Tuesday, sports bettors are left to wonder - "what now?"
Well, don't throw away that ticket just yet. There is still hope for sports bettors even though the Third Circuit Court upheld the original decision in favor of the leagues, who sued the state of New Jersey to prevent legalized sports betting there.
"For the first time, a judge has ruled in our favor," Sen. Raymond Lesniak said in a statement Tuesday, referring to the dissent in the 2-to-1 ruling. "That gives us hope that others, either Supreme Court Justices or the entire Court of Appeals for our District, will allow New Jersey to enjoy the economic benefits of sports betting that are now reserved exclusively for Nevada.
“Las Vegas is jammed for Super Bowl week and for the NCAA’s Final Four weekend while Atlanta City is a ghost town. That's just wrong. The only other beneficiaries of the court's ruling today are sports betting rings run by organized crime and the off-shore Internet sites for sports betting.”
Sen. Lesniak vowed that New Jersey will keep fighting and it now has two options: 1. To petition for an en banc hearing, meaning to ask to be heard in the Third Circuit court again or 2. To file a writ of certiorari for the case to be heard in the U.S. Supreme Court.
As Griffin Finan, gaming industry lawyer and expert at Ifrah Law in Washington D.C., Tweeted today, the state has 45 days to file for an en banc hearing and 90 days to file for a Supreme Court review.
Finan told me in an email he expects the state to go the en banc route, but we probably shouldn't get our hopes up for anything to change there.
"It seems likely that this case is destined for the Supreme Court," says Finan. "If the case were appealed and heard by the Supreme Court this upcoming term, we would probably see an opinion in the middle of next year. If this case were heard by the Supreme Court in the following term, then we would likely not have a decision until 2015."
So if things go New Jersey's way at the Supreme Court level, the earliest we'd see legalized sports betting there is by mid next year. As this schedule shows, arguments are slated in the Supreme Court up until April 30, 2014 so we wouldn't see anything earlier than that.
If and when this case is heard by the Supreme Court, New Jersey can take some positives from the Third Circuit decision.
"In his dissent containing powerful language, Judge Thomas Vanaskie noted that there is clear precedent that the federal government cannot direct state legislatures to enact legislation or state official to implement federal policy. New Jersey will likely rely on this language in any appeal in the case," says Finan.
The strongest of that language from Judge Vanasakie contained in the 128-page decision may have been this:
"I agree with my colleagues that Congress has the authority under the Commerce Clause to ban gambling on sporting events, and that such a ban could include state-licensed gambling. I part company with my colleagues because that is not what PASPA does. Instead, PASPA conscripts the states as foot soldiers to implement a congressional policy choice that wagering on sporting events should be prohibited to the greatest extent practicable. Contrary to the majority’s view, the Supremacy Clause simply does not give Congress the power to tell the states what they can and cannot do in the absence of a validly-enacted federal regulatory or deregulatory scheme."
The down side is the Supreme Court "owes no deference" to previous rulings, so take this as a small victory for the good guys, but take it with a grain of salt.
One company that has already bet on legalized betting becoming a reality in New Jersey is William Hill. They are poised to flip the switch after purchasing the rights to the sports betting operation at Monmouth Park in May.
Said William Hill U.S. CEO Joe Asher in a release at the time:
"One day sports betting will be legal in New Jersey. When it is, William Hill will be there."
Fingers crossed for us all.