Attorneys for the NCAA and big four professional sports leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL) say a court petition filed against them by New Jersey’s Monmouth Park horse racetrack is “frivolous.”

NCAA Monmouth Park lawsuit

Monmouth Park owner Dennis Drazin says his horse racetrack lost tens of millions of dollars as the legal case regarding sports betting dragged on in courts. The NCAA, NFL, MLB, and NHL say they’re not responsible. (Image: Bill Denver/Equi-Photo)

In May, the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NJTHA), on behalf of Monmouth Park, filed a civil motion in the US District Court of New Jersey against the NCAA and pro leagues. The racetrack argues the organizations acted in bad faith when they successfully obtained a temporary restraining order (TRO) in 2014 to block the racetrack from opening its sportsbook.

Monmouth Park is seeking financial damages stemming from the lengthy three-and-a-half years legal challenge that ensued. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in May that the federal sports betting ban known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 was unconstitutional.

The leagues made a losing bet. It’s time to pay up,” the NJTHA said in its motion.

The NJTHA claims it lost out on $150 million during the drawn-out appeals process, and wants the NCAA and big four to pay.

In their response filed this week, the leagues say they were simply adhering to federal law, and that the eventual outcome does not mean its previous actions were in bad faith. “Meritless, if not frivolous,” the response declares.

How We Got Here

After New Jersey voters approved a constitutional referendum in 2011, and the state legislature enacted regulations to govern the gambling activity a year later, the NCAA and pro leagues sued on grounds that PASPA superseded state law.

New Jersey District Court and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals both sided with the sports organizations.

New Jersey lawmakers went back to the drawing board and amended its sports betting law to once again try and circumvent the federal law. Mainly, the new law repealed any prohibitions placed on the state that banned sports gambling.

After Gov. Chris Christie (R) signed the new bill in 2014, and Monmouth was readying to open its sportsbook, the NCAA et al. filed a restraining order motion. New Jersey District Court Judge Michael Shipp, the same judge who had earlier ruled against the Garden State’s sports betting plan, agreed to block Monmouth Park from taking sports bets for four weeks. However, he ordered the leagues post a $3.4 million bond to cover lost costs should the case not proceed.

The leagues say it shouldn’t be on the hook for any compensation to Monmouth Park, including the $3.4 million bond.

The contention that Plaintiffs’ arguments concerning the constitutionality of PASPA were advanced in ‘bad faith’ is utterly unsupportable; indeed, those arguments were repeatedly held to be well-founded by this Court and by the Third Circuit,” the leagues state.

Mammoth Monmouth Revenues

Monmouth Park’s William Hill sportsbook finally took its first bet on June 14, with Governor Phil Murphy (D) doing the honors. Over its first two weeks in operations, sports betting win totaled $2.28 million at the track.

Borgata, the only other sportsbook in operation during the same two-week period, posted sports gambling win of a little less than $1 million.

Competition is increasing, as Ocean Resort has its sportsbook up and running, as does FanDuel at the Meadowlands. Sports betting is expected by this fall at all Atlantic City casinos, with Tropicana perhaps the lone exception.