New Jersey Petitions US Supreme Court over “Unconstitutional” Sports Betting Ban

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New Jersey takes sports betting case to the Supreme Court
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a bill authorizing sports betting into law in January 2012, but has faced legal opposition ever since. (Image: Matt Rourke/AP)

New Jersey will take its claim to the US Supreme Court as it seeks to argue that the federal ban on sports betting is a violation of its constitutional rights under the Tenth Amendment.

In August, the state failed to convince a panel of judges at an en banc hearing of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that it was in its rights to partially repeal the ban on sports betting by simply choosing not to enforce the law.

Now, it hopes to take its plight to the highest court in the land, where it will argue that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act 1992 (PASPA) is an unconstitutional infringement of states’ rights.    

“Federal Takeover”

“This federal takeover of New Jersey’s legislative apparatus is dramatic, unprecedented, and in direct conflict with this Court’s Tenth Amendment jurisprudence barring Congress from controlling how the States regulate private parties,” reads the filing.

“Never before has congressional power been construed to allow the federal government to dictate whether…a State may repeal…its own state-law prohibitions on private conduct.”

New Jersey’s chances may be slim when you consider that it has been knocked back in the courts many times before; in fact, there is no guarantee that it will even receive a hearing.

However, the filing notes that the Supreme Court has ruled that Congress may not “commandeer the legislative processes of the States by directly compelling them to enact and enforce a federal regulatory program,” and New Jersey’s lawyer, former Assistant US Attorney General Ted Olson, will argue this is exactly what PASPA does.

New Jersey Sports Betting Fight: A Timeline

January 1993: PASPA comes into force and outlaws sports betting nationwide, with the exception of those states that had already legalized the practice. It expressly forbids states from authorizing sports betting.

January 1994: The one-year window of opportunity created specifically for New Jersey to legislate for legal sports betting passes without action from the state.

March 2009: New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak files a lawsuit in the US District Court for the State of New Jersey arguing that PASPA unconstitutionally discriminates among states by allowing four to offer sports betting while prohibiting the other 46.

November 2011: A public referendum in New Jersey decides in favor of legalizing sports betting by a margin of 2:1.

January 2012: Governor Chris Christie signs legislation authorizing sports betting into law. The major sports leagues sue New Jersey for violation of PASPA.

February 2013: A United States District Court judge rules in favor of the sports leagues and bars New Jersey from issuing sports betting licenses.

September 2013: A three-judge panel from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals upholds the decision but says that PASPA is unconstitutional and that there is nothing preventing New Jersey from repealing state laws against sports betting.

October 2014: Christie partially repeals the state prohibition on sports betting, allowing casinos and racetracks to take bets.

November 2014: At the behest of the sports leagues, a federal judge issues a permanent injunction against New Jersey licensing sports betting.   

August 2015: The decision is upheld by the appellate court.

August 2016: The decision is upheld by a panel of appellate judges, voting 9-3.   

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