New Jersey Thoroughbred Racing Association Appeals Sports Betting Case to the US Supreme Court

The New Jersey Thoroughbred Racing Association has appealed New Jersey’s sports betting case to the U.S. Supreme Court. After the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office lost its appeal before an “en banc” panel of judges in August 2016, Gov. Chris Christie said he would not appeal the decision.

Two years ago, after New Jersey lost a similar appeal in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, Gov. Christie appealed a similar case to the Supreme Court. At the time, the nation’s top judicial institution declined to hear the case. Given that decision, legal experts speculate that the high court is not likely to hear the New Jersey Thoroughbred Racing Association’s appeal.

Monmouth Park Sports Betting

The New Jersey TRA believes the decision is important to the future of their industry in the state of New Jersey. Monmouth Park is the leading horse racing venue in New Jersey, but the racing industry has been in a decline across the United States for a generation. With the proliferation of gambling on the lottery, in tribal casinos, and on the Internet, fewer gamblers seem interested in a visit to the racetrack.

In many locations, the answer has been to legalize casino-style gambling at racetracks. Most install slot machines or video lottery terminals (VLTs), which are quite similar to the slots. Other locations install both slots and table games. In either case, racinos have become a way to sustain the local horse racing, dog racing, and equestrian training industries.

2011 Statewide Referendum on Legal Sportsbooks

New Jersey tried to increase the revenue sources for Monmouth Park by legalizing sportsbooks. A statewide vote by New Jersey residents in 2011 allowed the state to legalize sports betting in 2012, but the major US sports associations sued in 2012 to maintain the federal ban imposed by the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992.

That court case made its way through the federal court system from 2012 to 2014, with New Jersey losing decisions at the District Court and Appellate Court phases. By June 2014, the state appealed their lost decisions to the U.S. Supreme Court, only to have those appeals denied.

2nd Round of Sports Betting Cases

Chris Christie’s lawyers interpreted remarks by the dissenting opinion in the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruling as a possible avenue to legalization. Instead of directly legalizing sports betting, the NJ State Legislature voted to repeal key portions of its sports betting laws. Chris Christie’s plan was to look the other way while Monmouth Park opened a sportsbook. By not enforcing a ban on sports gambling, New Jersey thought it might get around the federal ban.

This touched off another lawsuit by the sports associations. Their lawyers argued that New Jersey’s Justice Department was being discriminatory, because they planned to look the other way in regards to Monmouth Park, while continuing to prosecute illegal bookmakers. By making a distinction, the NFL, NBA, and MLB’s lawyers argued that New Jersey was legalizing sports betting in a de facto sense.

Repeated Defeats for New Jersey

Judge Michael Shipp of the District Court in Trenton and the Third Court of Appeals both saw it that way. After a 3-judge panel with the Third Circuit Court ruled in favor of the sports leagues, New Jersey appealed to the en banc panel in the Third Circuit. The panel of judges agreed to hear the case, but ultimately ruled 10-2 against New Jersey. Given Chris Christie’s statements at the time, the case seemed to be closed.

Now the Thoroughbred Racing Association is appealing the case. Few experts give the racing association much chance of success. Still, many believe the 46-state federal ban on sports betting is not likely to be in place much longer. Former NBA Commissioner David Stern recently said he expected to see sports gambling legalized on the federal level in the next 5 to 10 years, though his optimistic side hoped it would be in 1 to 3 years.

Geoff Freeman on Legal Sports Gambling

It’s coming, either way. Geoff Freeman, President of the American Gaming Association, seconded Commissioner Stern’s words. Freeman said that $90 billion is gambled every year on sports by Americans, but less than $2 billion of that is gambled legally.

Freeman and the AGA argue that U.S. states are missing out on billions of dollars in tax revenues because the PASPA law. The PASPA doesn’t end illegal sports betting; it only drives the activity underground, where it fuels organized crime and gambling addictions.

Geoff Freeman said recently, “The AGA is closely examining the current state of sports betting, the laws that govern it and the best way forward for the gaming industry.

About Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller has been an online writer for 14 years. He worked for Small World Marketing for a decade, where he covered topics like gaming, sports, movies, and how-to guides. Since 2014, he has blogged about US and international gambling news on,, and

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