New Briefs Filed as New Jersey Sports Betting Nears Supreme Court Review

Two new briefs have been filed this week to the Supreme Court in support of New Jersey’s attempt to legalize sports betting at the state’s casinos and racetracks.

One of those briefs was filed by the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (THA), who is a party to the case.

This effort began in 2011 when voters in New Jersey approved by an overwhelming margin a state consitutional amendment to repeal a state law banning wagering on sports. This paved the way for the state legislature to create a new law that would allow the racetracks and casinos to offer sports betting. Officials were so optimistic in New Jersey, they started putting together the space at Monmouth Park for the future sportsbook, but then the National Football League stepped in.

The NFL, NCAA, NBA, MLB, and NHL all filed suit in federal court saying that sports betting in New Jersey would cause irreperable harm to their businesses, which are presumably the ticketing and merchandising of professional sports. The professional sports leagues and the NCAA prevailed in court and the ban on New Jersey sports betting stayed in place.

The state of New Jersey appealed that decision and filed its own suit, as did the New Jersey THA. The cases have gradually found their way through the years to the Supreme Court, which decided to hear the case despite the U.S. Solicitor General recommending against it.

The New Jersey THA is arguing that the federal government’s ban on sports gambling in all but four states — Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana were “grandfathered” into the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) despite the fact that only Nevada permitted sports gambling — is a violation of the Constitution’s 10th Amendment, specifically the “commandeering clause.” The commandeering clause essentially states that the federal government cannot compel state or local governments to act against their will. The 10th Amendment has played an important role in a number of Supreme Court decisions dealing with everything from gun control to marijuana laws.

The New Jersey THA in its statement this week points out that daily fantasy sports are considered legal and are benefiting the sports leagues that oppose New Jersey’s sports betting.

“While Monmouth Park and the New Jersey equine industry suffer because Monmouth Park is prohibited from conducting sports wagering, the leagues have been profiting from fantasy sports betting, and especially daily fantasy sports betting,” the filing states. “Despite the fact that PASPA makes it ‘unlawful’ for states to ‘authorize by law’ betting on the ‘performances of such athletes’ in the leagues’ games, the leagues have done nothing to stop the spread of fantasy or DFS wagering.”

The New Jersey THA also estimates that if this law had been allowed to pass, as the voters of New Jersey wished, Monmouth Park alone would be bringing in $1 million a week in sports betting revenue. 

The Supreme Court is expected to hear the case this fall with a decision expected by next spring.

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