NCAA and Professional Sports Leagues Push Back Against NJ Sports Betting

A new Race & Sports Betting Counter in the rotunda makes placing bets less of a hike from the World Series of Poker action.

In a move that came as a surprise to no one, the NCAA, NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL filed a motion in Federal District Court Monday, seeking to block New Jersey’s latest attempt at bringing legalized sports betting to the Garden State.

Somewhat of a surprise (but not a big one) was the inclusion of the NBA in the injunction. Despite NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s recent comments where he said sports betting at the state was inevitable and something the NBA would “ultimately participate in,” the league has fallen into step behind the NCAA and NFL against New Jersey’s current proposal.

New Jersey’s latest foray into sports betting

On Friday Governor Chris Christie signed S-2460, a bill created by State Senator Raymond Lesniak that would partially repeal New Jersey’s longstanding laws prohibiting private businesses from accepting sports betting wagers. The law would allow New Jersey’s racetracks and casinos to offer legal sports betting to their customers, with the exception of New Jersey based colleges and professional teams.

Here is a quick video that explains the new bill: ESPN Segment

While Lesniak and others were congratulating one another and giving each other social media high-fives on Friday, the storm clouds were already brewing, which is why Monday’s motion came as no surprise:

In the motion filed on Monday (right around Noon ET by the way) the NCAA and professional sports leagues had already filed their motion, calling the new law a, “clear and flagrant violation of federal law.”

The motion goes on to describe the new law as little more than an attempt, “to accomplish what it unsuccessfully attempted to do three years ago: sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license or authorize gambling on amateur and professional sports at state-licensed casinos and horse racetracks. Because this effort is no more lawful than New Jersey’s past ones, it, too, should be enjoined.”

With the injunction hearing expected to be scheduled sometime this week, we will soon find out if Monmouth Racetrack is taking sports betting action this coming weekend, or if this game of cat and mouse continues to be played.

Why the new bill has a chance

Despite the protestations of the NCAA and professional sports leagues, the new law passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Christie on Friday is quite different than their attempt from three years ago.

The 2011 law would have allowed New Jersey to legalize sports betting and regulate the industry through the state. Because of the state’s involvement the courts ruled against New Jersey, claiming state-sponsored sports betting was a violation of the 1992 federal law PASPA .

The current version of New Jersey’s sports betting law has no state involvement. Instead S 2460 repealed longstanding state laws outlawing sports betting by private businesses. unlike their attempt in 2011 the state would have no regulatory oversight over the industry – it’s even somewhat unclear how the state will collect taxes on sports bets.

Essentially, the 2011 law was a new law, while the current law is repealing an older law.

That being said, we’ll see how the court feels about this potential loophole to PASPA. While New Jersey seems to have a setup a checkmate situation let’s not forget that Delaware (a state with a PASPA exemption) was blocked from implementing sports betting in 2009 and can only offer three-team parlays.

If the courts can rule against a state with an official exemption, surely New Jersey’s case is not as airtight as it seems?


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