Federal appeals court rules against latest N.J. sports betting effort

Judges at the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled in a 2-to-1 vote Tuesday against the legalization of sports betting in New Jersey, squashing the state's latest of several attempts at doing so and sending proponents back to the drawing board.

In oral arguments heard back in March, New Jersey made the case that, under a 2014 state law repealing all state prohibitions against sports betting, allowing wagering to begin on games would be in compliance with the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a 23-year-old federal law that limits sports betting to just four states, because it would not be regulating sports wagering, but rather just repealing the laws preventing casinos and racetracks from taking bets.

The state made a point to challenge the nation’s four major professional sports leagues and the National Collegiate Athletic Association on the grounds that they were operating with “unclean hands” due to their partnerships with daily fantasy leagues and full-service sports betting in Las Vegas.

This wasn’t the first time the courts have sided against the state and with the leagues. Following a voter referendum on the issue, Gov. Chris Christie signed a 2012 law permitting sports betting in the state, only to see it successfully argued before both U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp and the Third Circuit that the state was in clear violation of PASPA.

New Jersey had been hopeful heading into the Third Circuit proceedings, as it was there during the last challenge that the idea of repeal was presented as a potential way to circumvent PASPA.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the state’s previous case following the Third Circuit ruling and it appears unlikely that the high court would take up its latest effort, either.

Still, state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), the primary proponent of bringing sports betting to the Garden State, said that once again, the Third Circuit and Judge Julio Fuentes, who wrote the dissenting opinion, did not completely shut the door on another appeal attempt.

“In his dissent, Judge Fuentes acknowledged my legislation does not violate federal law against sports betting,” Lesniak said. “We will use that as a basis to ask the entire Third Circuit to reconsider the panel’s majority opinion.”

Lesniak said he expects the New Jersey Racing Association to file a prompt appeal and for it to receive support from the state Senate.

“Even the analysis from the court admits PASPA is criticized for allowing illegal gambling to flourish and stifling vital economic growth at our racetracks and casinos,” Lesniak added. “New Jersey residents should have the right to engage in legal sports wagering if they choose to.”

[original article]