What's next for New Jersey in fight to legalize sports betting?

Mar 1, 2013 |
Sports bettors need a short memory to be successful, quickly shaking off that night’s loss to re-focus on the next day’s odds.

New Jersey’s push for legalized sports betting needs a similar gold fish-minded take following a judge’s ruling in favor of four pro sports leagues and NCAA in their case to block sports gambling in the Garden State.

Late Thursday, 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 unconstitutional and a violation of the state’s sovereignty.

The next step for New Jersey is to move the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals Third Circuit in Philadelphia. The state has 30 days to file an appeal on the ruling and then the court will assign a briefing schedule and dates for oral argument, a process that could take up to a year.

“New Jersey can raise some compelling questions on review that the Third Circuit has never addressed and for which there is little precedent,” Griffin Finan (@G_Finan), an attorney at Ifrah Law in Washington D.C, told Covers.

“I expect New Jersey to appeal both yesterday’s decision on the constitutionality of PASPA and the ruling from December on the leagues standing to bring this suit,” says Finan. “The Third Circuit has never issued an opinion that directly addressed the constitutionality of PASPA, so there is no precedent on the issue.”

While Thursday’s ruling is a major bump in the road for the legalization of sports betting in New Jersey, the state has a couple backup plans already in motion.

There have been two bills introduced to Congress recently, one that grants only New Jersey exemption under the PASPA and another that would grant any state that legalizes sports gambling by 2017 an exemption under the PASPA. The latter would open the door for other states looking to legalizing sports betting, like California which recently reintroduced a bill that would allow sports wagering in the state.

As for now, the country will patiently wait while the process plays out in the U.S. Court of Appeals Third Circuit. The biggest topic up for debate will be the state’s argument that the PASPA violates the anti-commandeering principle which prohibits the government from forcing duties on state legislators or executive officials to carry out a federal initiative.

“I expect the issue of whether the anti-commandeering principle requires that a state be forced to take an affirmative action will be important in the appeal,” says Finan. “There is very little precedent on the issue and this is one of the stronger points on appeal for the state.”

There is a chance that the case could find its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Either side can petition the eventual ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals Third Circuit and the Supreme Court can grant the petition to seek an appeal, which would lead to more formal briefing and oral argument. However, according to Finan, less than two percent of cases seeking appeal by the Supreme Court are granted.

For more information on Thursday’s ruling and the appeal process read Ifrah Law’s blog, Crime In The Suites.

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