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Monday, June 23, 2014

Supreme Court Kills Appeal of NJ Sports Betting Law

Maybe I should have been a lawyer.  When the State of New Jersey first talked about passing a  law authorizing sports betting in New Jersey, I mentioned the State was going to lose the case and the odds were the Supreme Court would never hear the case, having refused to hear an appeal from the State of Delaware which merely wanted to add a single game wagering to their already legal parlay wagering for the NFL.  This was back in 2009 (Hey, you got to be right once in a while even if you are not a lawyer).

Well today, the Supreme Court refused to hear the states's appeal of the circuit court ruling which declared the State's sports betting law illegal as it conflicted with the Federal PAPSA statute.  As a result, State Senator Lesniak wants to change the law in the state which would free racetracks and casinos into offering sports wagering unregulated as the belief is it is illegal to offer state sanctioned sports gaming.  The bombastic Governor, Chris Christie should throw the flag and say 'enough'.

Update:  Here is the legislation now being proposed by Senator Lesniak as reported in John Brennan's North Jersey Blog.:

AN ACT concerning statutory prohibitions against sports wagering and supplementing Title 5 of the Revised Statutes.
Eliminates statutory prohibitions against sports wagering at racetracks and casinos in New Jersey.
BE IT ENACTED by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, including, but not limited to, chapter 37 of Title 2C of the New Jersey Statutes, sports wagering conducted at a racetrack or a casino under procedures developed solely by the racetrack or casino shall not be considered unlawful gambling and a person shall not be subject to criminal or civil liability under the laws of this State for participating in, or conducting, sports wagering at a racetrack or a casino as herein provided.
2. This act shall take effect immediately.

Because odds are any attempt would a) be bad state policy and b) end up in court and c) be declared illegal.

First of all, to pass a law which allowed racetracks and casinos to offer unregulated sports wagering would be bad policy because the tracks and casinos would be free to set their own rules and payoffs.  They would also be free to offer betting on NJ colleges and games contested in state, something the now dead law prohibited.  One could argue this would be free market, but it would allow the bookmakers (for lack of a better word) free reign to do what they wanted and not offer the public any protection; including maintaining a self-exclusion list.  Secondly, if the legislation would limit unregulated sports gambling to the designated bookmakers yet keep it illegal to your bookie, couldn't one still argue the state has approved and sanctioned sports betting?  The NCAA and professional sports leagues would be back in court suing the same cast of individuals once again.  The courts would then rule the state attempted an end around PAPSA.

But let's assume the courts wouldn't intervene in the case.  You will see the professional leagues then attempt to enforce their copyrights and trademarks to keep the bookmakers from broadcasting the games at their sports betting parlors.  In addition, they would likely seek a commission for using the leagues' product which would delay, at a minimum, any sports gaming or they could price their sports so high that it would be cost prohibitive for the bookmakers.

Instead of wasting time on trying to run an end-around PAPSA to get the state necessary funds for its treasury, the one thing it could do now is to pass a bill authorizing a referendum to allow racetracks to offer casino gaming with perhaps a specified percentage going to the existing casinos.

Time to end this silliness and do the people's business.

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