New Jersey sports betting case

Judge Michael Shipp ruled against New Jersey’s sports betting plan, but said that the case is not clear in either direction. (Image: NJLawJournal.com)

New Jersey’s sports betting aspirations took another hit on Friday, as a judge ruled that the state can’t partially remove restrictions on the activity and still comply with the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). The ruling, which came from Federal District Court Judge Michael Shipp, was a predictable one, as Judge Shipp had ruled against the state in previous sports betting cases.

However, the state is expected to appeal the ruling, meaning the legal battle between New Jersey and the major sports leagues will continue for some time.

“We are going to continue pursuing every legal option available,” said State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester County) in a statement. “The economic impact that sports wagering can have on New Jersey is far too important to simply shrug our shoulders and move on.”

Shipp Says Case Isn’t “Nearly as Clear” as Sides Think

Even the ruling against them may have actually emboldened the spirits of those who want to see sports betting come to New Jersey’s casinos and racetracks. While Shipp made the expected ruling, his decision came with more caveats than when he ruled on the initial dispute.

“The present case is not nearly as clear as either the leagues or the defendants assert,” Judge Shipp wrote in his decision.

After attempting to legalize sports betting, the NCAA and the four major sports leagues successfully sued to stop New Jersey from implementing those bets earlier this year. A federal appeals court ruled against the state, and the Supreme Court of the United States chose not to hear the case.

Previous Ruling Led to Current Sports Betting Attempt

But parts of that federal ruling suggested that while New Jersey was not legally allowed to regulate sports betting, they might be allowed to let it go on under their noses while choosing not to criminalize it. That led to the new attempt to simply lift some of the state’s existing bans on betting without regulating or specifically authorizing any activity.

The sports leagues have more or less admitted that New Jersey is free to lift their sports betting ban entirely if they wish to do so. However, they contend that by restricting who can offer some bets and not allowing minors to make such wagers, they are essentially regulating the practice, something PASPA unambiguously prohibits. The leagues have also pointed out that the state regulates the casinos and racetracks that would be allowed to offer bets on sporting events, meaning they would implicitly be regulating any bets they take as a result.

The new decision follows a temporary injunction that was issued by Judge Shipp in October. That came at the request of the sports leagues, which said that they would be harmed by allowing bets to start taking place at Monmouth Park, which had planned to take NFL bets the weekend after Governor Chris Christie signed the legislation into effect.

New Jersey has already filed a notice with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, where they plan to appeal Judge Shipp’s ruling. And since that was the court that first gave the state the idea on how to work around PASPA, lawmakers think their chances will be better this time around.

“We’re just following their lead,” said State Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-Union County). “We’ll certainly have a lot better chance before the Third Circuit than we had before Judge Shipp.”