Five states join New Jersey sports betting fight as Burzichelli considers nuclear option

Assemblyman John Burzichelli has his finger on the button, warning New Jersey could be prepared to use its nuclear option to “send a message” to the feds. (Philly.com)

New Jersey is not done yet in its quest to authorize sports betting within its borders. A new bill introduced to the legislature two weeks ago has been described as the state’s “nuclear option” in its quest to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).

The federal law bans sports betting outside of Nevada, Oregon, Delaware and Montana.

The bill, A4303, would repeal all laws prohibiting sports betting in New Jersey, effectively decriminalizing the practice not only at casinos and racetracks but everywhere else too.

This would potentially pave the way for corner bookies and betting parlors throughout the state.

Door Left Open

Meanwhile, New Jersey is asking the Supreme Court to hear its appeal of the Third Circuit’s August ruling, which blocked its attempt to legalize sport betting solely at its casinos and racetracks.

This week it was joined in this endeavor by the attorneys general of five states, who filed an amicus brief in support of New Jersey’s plight. AG’s from West Virginia, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Wisconsin contend that Third Circuit ruling usurps states’ rights by enforcing the federal ban on sports betting.

New Jersey had argued that while PASPA specifically prohibits the “authorization” of sports betting, there was nothing, per se, that prevented the state from simply not enforcing the ban. Much of case, then, hinged on semantics and whether not enforcing a law amounted to the same thing as “authorizing” what the law forbade.

The problem was that New Jersey was only suggesting a partial repeal of PASPA, at casino and racetracks, and nowhere else. Thus, the court ruled that partial repeal amounted to authorization because a true repeal would surely legalize across the board.

It left the door open for a bill such as A4303, a recourse the court probably thought New Jersey would never take because of its desire to protect its casino sector. But now the New Jersey legislature will get to debate on whether to use its nuclear option.

Clear Message to Feds

Right now this bill would wipe out everything,” said the bill’s sponsor Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-28th). “That would allow anyone to open in [a betting operation] in a storefront,” which supporters do not want, Caputo said. “How do we regulate these other people?”

“At the very least, it’s sending a very clear message back to the federal government once again that we believe this is a state’s rights issue,” his co-sponsor Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-3rd) told KYW Newsradio.

“If the federal government can turn their head and say to the people of Colorado recreational marijuana, although still recognized by the feds to be a crime, is allowed to be legal in Colorado because the state decided it’s so, then they should equally respect New Jersey and it’s people who have changed the constitution to say we want to be able to bet on sporting events in a legal environment.”