Federal court denies New Jersey’s bid for legalized sports betting
by David Purdum ESPN

A U.S. federal appeals court ruled in favor of the NCAA, NFL and other major sports leagues Tuesday, denying New Jersey’s latest bid to bring legalized sports betting to the state’s struggling casinos and racetracks. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia denied New Jersey’s appeal by a 2-1 majority decision, ruling that the state’s efforts violate the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. Last summer, after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review an earlier appeal by New Jersey, the state partially repealed its existing prohibitions on sports betting but restricted the activity to only racetracks and casinos.

Third Circuit judges Maryanne Trump Barry and Marjorie Rendell said they believed that by restricting sports betting to the tracks and casinos, New Jersey was authorizing sports betting. Judge Julio Fuentes, who ruled against New Jersey earlier in the case, was the dissenting voice this time.

“There is simply no conceivable reading of PASPA that could preclude a state from restricting sports wagering,” Fuentes wrote in his opinion. But this three-year legal battle isn’t over yet. New Jersey state Sen. Ray Lesniak said he would appeal for a hearing in front of the entire Third Circuit. The petition for an en banc hearing must be filed within 14 days. “En banc is ‘extraordinary’ and completely discretionary,” said Christopher Soriano, an attorney for Duane Morris, who has been following the case closely. “[The] case must have a conflict with a prior decision or must involve exceptional importance. The question will be whether Judge Fuentes’ dissent creates a conflict with the prior decision.” New Jersey is not the only entity pushing for the legalization of sports betting.

In a November op-ed in the New York Times, NBA commissioner Adam Silver called on Congress to create a federal framework that would allow states to offer legalized sports betting. Indiana, Minnesota, New York, South Carolina and Texas were among the states that introduced sports betting legislation this year. Currently, Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana are the only states allowed to offer forms of sports betting. Nevada is the only state that can offer single-game wagering. The NBA did not offer an immediate comment. The NFL said it had no comment on Tuesday’s decision. Two federal sports betting bills, introduced by U.S. Congressmen Frank LoBiondo and Frank Pallone from New Jersey, have not gained much traction in Washington, D.C. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has called for Congress to have a hearing on sports betting as well. “Today’s decision by the Third Circuit on sports betting and how gaming is regulated encourages deeper examination about the best path forward on this issue,” American Gaming Association president and CEO Geoff Freeman said in a statement.

“With Americans betting at least $140 billion on sports illegally each year, it’s clear that current law is not achieving its intended result. As the AGA leads an industry-wide task force to study sports betting, we will assess the implications of the court’s decision as the gaming industry continues to develop innovative ways to provide products and experiences that meet consumers’ demands.”