In August 2015, a three-judge appellate court panel ruled against the state of New Jersey in the state’s ongoing push to legalize sports betting. It was nothing new for the Garden State, which has been trying to join an exclusive club of states where sports gambling is actually allowed for several years, but it was disappointing nonetheless. On Wednesday, the state will get another shot at convincing judges in an en banc hearing in front of a twelve judge appellate panel.
For a state known for its casino gambling, it does sometimes seem weird that there is no sports betting in New Jersey, but that is the case thanks to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA). That law made sports betting illegal in every state, except for the four that were grandfathered in: Nevada, Montana, Oregon, and Delaware. Nevada is the only one that has full-fledged sports gambling; the others have watered-down versions and are never thought of as being in the same company as Nevada. PASPA permitted states that had legal gambling for the ten years leading up to the bill’s passage to decide to allow sports betting, but New Jersey never opted-in.
With New Jersey’s gambling industry declining in recent years, there has been a renewed effort to try to get sports betting up and running. In 2011, state residents voted in favor of a referendum that would have done just that, but the NCAA, NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL sued to stop it, saying it violated PASPA. They have won every time this has come up and therefore New Jersey is still without sports betting.
In 2014, the state tried an end-around, passing S2460, which cancelled the state’s ban on sports betting. The trick here was that while sports betting wasn’t explicitly legal and no licenses would be issued, it was no longer illegal, so casinos and racetracks could launch sports books without fear of prosecution. The sports leagues once again challenged and won, with the aforementioned three-judge of the 3rd Circuit appellate court panel ruling against the state by a 2-1 vote.
The 3rd Circuit Court, though, granted New Jersey a rehearing en banc, which Google tells me means in front of all twelve Circuit judges. The hour-long hearing will take place Wednesday at 11:00am. If seven of the judges rule in New Jersey’s favor, saying its pro-sports betting law jives with PASPA, we could see sports betting rolled out at the state’s casinos in the near future. It could also pave the way for other states to join in the fun.
Word is that the decision will be close, so the arguments tomorrow morning are extremely important. In the case of a 6-6 tie, the ruling would go in New Jersey’s favor. We likely won’t hear anything from the judges for a few months, though.