Supreme Court a likely scenario for NJ sports betting case

Jun 28, 2013 |
By: Jon Campbell
Anybody who follows the sports betting industry knows oral arguments were heard in Third Circuit court in Philadelphia Wednesday in New Jersey's bid to legalize sports wagering in the state.

What some may not realize is that New Jersey shifted focus in its argument just a couple of days before the trial, thanks to a decision Monday from the Supreme Court in Shelby County vs. Holder.

Griffin Finan, an attorney who specializes in gaming issues at Ifrah Law in Washington, D.C., told me Thursday that before the Shelby decision, New Jersey likely would've focused on the anti-commandeering issue Wednesday.  And most experts agree that one is a tough sell for the state.

But Shelby County could change everything.


"The state argued that Shelby County establishes that the 'equal sovereignty' doctrine - the principle that the states are to be treated equally from a federalism standpoint - applies in a more broad context than just in cases where, historically, new states were admitted to the Union."

Justice Ginsburg, the judge in that case, specifically singled out Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 in his dissent as an example of a statute that treats states unequally because it makes an exemption for four states. 

Ginsburg asked: "Do such provisions remain safe given the Court's expansion of equal sovereignty's sway?"

So there is some new hope for New Jersey. But Finan has said from the start that this case is destined for the Supreme Court. That could mean legalized sports betting in New Jersey - if it happens - is likely at least 1 1/2 to two years away according to Finan's estimation.

We had no indication Wednesday of when the judges might rule on this round. But the consensus feeling is that New Jersey supporters probably shouldn't hold their breath in optimism.

Should Nevada be worried?

A bit of a new twist arose from Wednesday's oral arguments that we hadn't heard much of before. And if I'm Nevada, my ears have definitely perked up.

Paul Clement, attorney for the NFL representing the leagues along with Paul Fishman arguing for the Department of Justice, said if there is a simple solution to the exemption issue that Shelby County brings up: strike the exemption.

It sounds like the if NFL and D.O.J. had it their way, they'd take out the exemptions for the four states in PASPA, meaning bye bye sportsbooks in Las Vegas.

The likelihood of that happening is obviously small, but it's a scary message. Total prohibition suits the D.O.J. just fine.

Other sports betting industry news this week:

-- Cantor Fitzgerald announced it is investing $25 million into the fantasy and social gaming avenues.

-- June 28 is the last day for the bill for single-game wagering to be approved by the Senate in Canada before it breaks for the summer. 

-- Forbes published an Op-Ed this week that supports Internet Gaming and refutes the one from Sheldon Adelson last week.

-- Eye-opening read here on betting corruption and tennis at the highest levels that asks, "Does tennis have a gambling problem?"

-- Another great read from the WSJ that looks at a guy trying to make a living out of playing fantasy sports. And the leagues say it isn't gambling.

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