New Jersey Horseman’s Association Calls for “En Banc” Appeal by 3rd Circuit Court
The New Jersey horse racing industry asked the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to review its recent decision involving sports betting. The court battles between the New Jersey gambling industry and the top American sports leagues have garnered significant attention, because a win by New Jersey could strike down the PAPSA law and change the American gaming landscape.
So far, the State of New Jersey has taken the lead in the legal battles. Gov. Chris Christie has ordered his Attorney General to fight lawsuits by the NFL, NBA, NHL, NCAA, and Major League Baseball to stop attempts to regulate sports betting in New Jersey. Five different legal judgments have gone against the state, which is considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court after its latest attempt to strike down the PASPA failed.
Monmouth Park Appeals Case
The New Jersey Horsemen’s Association, which operates Monmouth Park Racetrack in North Jersey, is the one who is appealing the case. They are asking for a review of a decision last month by a three-judge panel from the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled in favor of the sports associations. Under the law, the losing side in the case can ask for a review from the full 25-member panel from the Third Circuit Court–the so-called “en banc” judicial process (which sounds like it might be a roulette term). Under the “en banc” rules, each judge would be required to vote on the strength of the case, with the majority determining who won.
Monmouth Park call for the en banc decision is one step short of an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which likely would be the next step. When Chris Christie said New Jersey would exhaust every legal means to overturn the 1992 PASPA law, he spoke the truth. Critics have said Gov. Christie has wasted millions of taxpayer dollars in legal fees for what they see as a quixotic struggle.
About “En Banc” Decisions
Christopher Soriano, who works at the prestigious Duane Morris law firm, recently described how the rule works. He said, “En banc is ‘extraordinary’ and completely discretionary. [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.”
“En banc” might be seen as a desperation move by the Horseman’s Association, but one which could change the game for all side. The Horseman’s Association says, if the leagues are able to squelch legalized sports betting in New Jersey, it would “likely mean the end of New Jersey’s equine industry.” The lawyers added that a “similar fate may befall Atlantic City”, which has seen 4 of its 12 casinos closed their doors and a fifth declare bankruptcy in the past 2 years.
Undermining the NFL’s Integrity
For its part, the lawyers for the sports leagues argue that legalized sports betting at Monmouth Park would undermine the integrity of the game, due to public mistrust of the outcome of contests. The idea is that widespread, 50-state betting would lead to a proliferation of sports bets. If this happened, fans would consider the betting consequences of every action in a game, as well as every referees’ decision.
Why Judges Favor the Leagues
Not everyone sees it that way. The NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball have seen tremendous growth in their sports over the past 23 years, when sports betting was legal in Nevada. Many cannot see how legal sportsbooks in Las Vegas have no effect on public trust, yet regulated betting at Monmouth Park would. New Jersey’s hope is the 25-judge panel would see the same disconnect as the lawmakers and administrators in Trenton.
In past cases, judges have ruled against New Jersey’s arguments based on the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. They seem to buy the argument that the various sports’ integrities are at stake, or at least existing federal law should be upheld. One challenge to the PASPA is that it violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, because it favors one set of states over the others.
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