Breaking down the DOJ filing in the New Jersey sports betting case

Feb 4, 2013 |
By: Jon Campbell
The U.S. Department of Justice filed a brief in the U.S. District Court on Friday for the District of New Jersey defending the constitutionality of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).

The DOJ announced it was going to intervene in the lawsuit on Jan. 22 presented by the four major pro sports leagues and the NCAA, which challenges New Jersey's law to allow sports betting in the state.

According to this blog by Ifrah Law in Washington, D.C., a firm which specializes in gaming issues, "the DOJ brief raises three main constitutional issues: the anti-commandeering principles of the Tenth Amendment, Congress’s power to regulate sports wagering under the Commerce Clause and the applicability of the uniformity and equal sovereignty principles under the Commerce Clause, and due process and equal protection clause issues under the Fifth Amendment."

The blog goes on to say:

"The DOJ brief states that the arguments that PASPA violates the due process and equal protection guarantees of the Fifth Amendment are inapplicable because they protect only “persons” and not states from actions of the federal government. New Jersey argues that the discrimination between the states that PASPA has produced, by essentially granting Nevada a monopoly on single games sports betting, rises to the level of “injurious character” as to violate due process. This is likely the weakest argument that the state is making, and the court will likely rule in favor of DOJ on this point."

The arguments the DOJ makes have already been presented by the leagues but now we'll see if the court will give more consideration to them with the DOJ making the case.

"It remains to be seen how the court will rule," says the Ifrah Law blog, "but the constitutionality of PASPA will surely be tested and the consequences of this ruling will be very far-reaching. Whichever side loses the battle in the district court will likely appeal, meaning it may be some time before it is settled whether New Jersey can proceed with its plan to implement sports betting."

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