US District Court Judge Shuts Down Sports Betting in New Jersey with Friday Ruling
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Shipp ruled that New Jersey cannot partially repeal its gambling laws, which Jersey politicians like Chris Christie and Ray Lesniak had hoped to do. Judge Shipp’s decision means Monmouth Park cannot open a sportsbook to take bets on NFL, NBA, NHL, and NCAA games in the near future. In October, Shipp had granted a temporary restraining order against sports gambling in New Jersey, until he could analyze the arguments and make a more comprehensive ruling.
The decision came on Friday in Trenton, New Jersey. Judge Shipp had granted the request of the state of New Jersey and the major American sports association to forgo a trial and render a summary judgment. Lawyers for Monmouth Park, the racetrack most affeced by the ruling, had previously asked for a trial to make full arguments before the bench.
Chris Christie Has Filed Appeal
Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for the GOP Governor Chris Christie, said after Judge Shipp’s decision was announced that he had already filed a notice of appeal on behalf of the state. The next step in the legal process is the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
Last year, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 on behalf of the sports leagues in a related case. In that decision, the appellate judges said New Jersey did not have the right to regulate sports betting, but suggested the state might be within the law if it repealed its regulations and allowed sportsbooks to operate, anyway. That gives New Jersey’s political and gaming leaders hope that the next court will rule on their behalf.
Steve Sweeney Vows to Continue
Whatever the case, the court case is uniting New Jersey’s politicians, both Democrats and Republicans. Steve Sweeney, the Democratic President of the State Senate, discussed his support of Governor Christie’s appeal. Sweeney told ABC News, “We are going to continue pursuing every legal option available. The economic impact that sports wagering can have on New Jersey is far too important to simply shrug our shoulders and move on.”
Lesniak Describes Ruling’s Importance
State Senator Ray Lesniak also voiced his support. Lesniak told reporters the ruling by Shipp and subsequent appeals were “important for our entire state, but especially for Atlantic City.”
Four casinos have closed in Atlantic City this year, while a fifth might be closing in the next few weeks. If so, then Atlantic City would have only 7 casinos still in operation. One panel has estimated sports betting would net $11 billion a year in revenues.
Michael Shipp’s Interpretation
Michael Shipp wrote that limiting sports betting to certain locations (such as Monmouth Park) amounts to regulation of gambling. Shipp indicated he agreed with the key parts of the sports leagues’ arguments, but he also dismissed other ancillary arguments they made.
Does Sportsbooks Hurt Pro Sports?
When the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, its advocates said it was passed to save the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, and NCAA. They said, if sports betting was allowed throughout the United States, it would destroy the integrity of those sports. The American public would lose confidence in the results of the competitions, and the sports would dwindle into insignificance. That’s what the word “Protection” is doing in the PASPA acronym.
Michael Griffinger, the lawyer for the leaders of the New Jersey State Legislature, asked a cogent question about the NFL’s contention. When Americans think of all the problems involving major sports in the USA, sports betting is not likely to be anywhere near the top of the list. Mr. Griffinger said, “Is the sports betting in Las Vegas really stigmatizing sport? How about domestic abuse? How about cover-ups? How about concussions? Drug abuse?”
US Third Court of Appeals
The next stop in this legal case is the U.S. Third Court of Appeals. The case is not likely to be heard until early in 2015. Judge Shipp’s ruling effectively ends Monmouth Park’s hopes of accepting football bets in the 2014-15 NFL and NCAA seasons. Roughly half of all sports bets in a year are taken during the 4-month long football season. Thus, the time of the year when a legal sportsbook would be most useful to New Jersey and its gaming operations has passed.