Appeal Judges Offer Monmouth Park Hope in $150 Million Lawsuit Against Sports Leagues

Posted on: July 4, 2019, 09:59h. 

Last updated on: July 4, 2019, 09:59h.

Appellate judges in Philadelphia appeared sympathetic Tuesday to arguments by lawyers representing Monmouth Park that an unconstitutional reliance on PASPA was damaging to the racetrack’s business, suggesting the scales of justice may have tipped in its favor.

Monmouth Park
A 2014 injunction that prevented Monmouth Park from launching its sports betting operations almost put the racetrack out of business, according to its lawyers, who found sympathy among appellate judges this week. (Image: Peter Ackerman/Asbury Park Press)

This is the attempt by the New Jersey racetrack — or more accurately the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NJTHA), which owns the land lease to the racetrack — to claim millions in damages from the NCAA and the four major sports leagues for their obstruction of sports betting.

In 2014, after New Jersey had passed a law to decriminalize sports betting, Monmouth Park was days away from launching its sports book, but a last-minute injunction sought by the leagues and granted by a federal judge, nixed those ambitions.

Last May, the US Supreme Court shot down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, the law that had banned state-sanctioned sports betting, which the leagues had cited in their case for the injunction.

“They had a right to it all along,” Ronald Riccio, of the firm McElroy Deutsch, representing NJTHA, told the appellate court Tuesday, as reported by The Courthouse News.

Bad Faith

NJTHA believes it is entitled to $150 million, which it argues is the economic damage the racetrack suffered from 2014 up to 2018 when the first legal sports wager in New Jersey was placed by Gov. Phil Murphy.

It also argues that the leagues acted in bad faith by supressing sports betting on “integrity” grounds while profiting from sponsorship deals with daily fantasy sports companies.

In November, Judge Michael Shipp, the very judge who had granted the 2014 injunction, dismissed the case, ruling that the sports leagues had applied what it understood to be the law – and, in fact, was the law – at the time, PASPA.

NJOnlingGambling reports the appellate judges were uninterested in the demand for $150 million in damages because this particular claim had been sidestepped by the Shipp in November.

“We’re a reviewing court,” said Judge Midge Rendell. “We don’t address avoided issues.”

$3.4 Million Bond Up for Grabs

But Rendell was prepared to accept NJTHA had been “wrongfully enjoined” from offering sports betting.

“They were wrongfully prevented from doing what they should have been allowed to do because the Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional,” she said.

Attention turned to a a $3.4 bond, paid by the sports leagues in 2014 in case they lost the case, which was meant to represent potential damages, and which NJTHA also argues it should be entitled to.

That claim was rejected by Shipp in November, but the panel of judges seemed inclined to side to with the NJTHA on this one, which means it may not be getting $150 million, but it could be getting something – and that’s better than a kick in the teeth.