New Jersey Horse Racing Industry Petitions US Supreme Court to Open Barn Door on Sports Betting

Posted on: October 7, 2016, 03:00h. 

Last updated on: October 7, 2016, 01:01h.

New Jersey horse racing sports betting PASPA
The Monmouth Park sportsbook will remain desolate for the time being, but the New Jersey horse racing industry isn’t giving up on its efforts to legalize sports betting. (Image: Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO)

The New Jersey horse racing industry is asking the United States Supreme Court to consider overturning previous decisions by lower courts that’s blocking the state’s wishes to legalize sports betting.

Thoroughbred horsemen, led by Dennis Drazin who operates the Monmouth Park track in Oceanport, petitioned the high court to review the case on grounds that the horse racing industry is losing $1 million a week due to sports betting prohibition.

“The only business revenue stream that can save Monmouth Park at the present time is revenue from sports betting,” attorney Ron Riccio, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, wrote in court documents.

Last February, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals gathered in Philadelphia for a rare en banc hearing.

Twelve judges assembled to review an earlier three-member panel ruling that went against New Jersey being allowed to implement sports betting. After months of waiting, the court ruled 10-2 in August to uphold the preceding judgment.

Ball in One’s Court

Following an approved voter referendum, Governor Chris Christie (R) signed sports betting into law in 2014. The legislation would have granted Atlantic City casinos and the state’s horse racetracks with the right to offer lines on sports.

But almost immediately, the “Big Four” professional sports leagues, the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL, joined with the NCAA to challenge the state.

At issue was the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), a federal law that bans sports betting in all but four states. Today, only Nevada utilizes its grandfathered status and exclusion from PASPA.

Riccio’s appeal also cites the emergence of daily fantasy sports (DFS), and the alleged contradictory authorization of the online games. The New Jersey Horse Racing Industry contends that if PASPA prevents sports betting, it should also block DFS.

Following two 2-1 decisions by the Third Circuit, New Jersey successfully convinced the court to an en banc hearing. But in the end, the verdict was the same: PASPA wins.

The US Supreme Court is Jersey’s final chance at bringing sportsbooks to the Garden State. But the odds of the DC court accepting the case are about as good as the Cleveland Browns winning the Super Bowl.

The US Supreme Court receives some 8,000 petitions each year, but only takes about 80.

PASPA Politics

Even if the US Supreme Court believes sports betting should be a state’s right, the job of the court is to interpret the laws Congress passes, not make them. So while a cohort of PASPA critics is growing, former NBA Commissioner David Stern being the latest to back PASPA repeal, the US Supreme Court shouldn’t be expected to overturn the Third Circuit’s stance.

For PASPA to be dismantled or amended, Congress would need to intervene.

Stern, formally one of sports betting’s biggest critics, believes now is the time.

“There’s a lot out there that’s being bet illegally. If we can fix this, it would be a big hit to organized crime,” Stern said this month.