New Jersey Lawyers Take Case for Sports Betting to US SG’s Office

Posted on: April 12, 2017, 12:00h. 

Last updated on: April 12, 2017, 12:01h.

New Jersey lawyers and officials were in Washington this week to meet staff from US Solicitor General’s Office as they pushed their case for legalized sports betting.

Acting Solicitor General Noel Francisco to advise Supreme Court on New Jersey sports betting.
Acting SG and Trump pick for the post Noel Francisco is likely to have a huge bearing on New Jersey’s quest to offer sports betting within its borders. (Image: Diego M. Radzinschi/National Law Journal)

Ted Olson, himself a former US solicitor general, was on hand to argue in New Jersey’s interests, as was top Newark-based lawyer Michael Griffinger, while attorney Ron Ricio represented the state’s thoroughbred horsemen. Also present was Dennis Drazin, on behalf of Monmouth Park.

New Jersey has petitioned the US Supreme Court to hear its appeal of a Third Circuit Court ruling in August, which blocked its attempt to legalize sport betting solely at its casinos and racetracks

The Supreme Court has requested the solicitor general file a brief on the federal government’s view of the issue, which suggests two things: that it is willing to hear the case, because if it wasn’t, it would have simply dismissed it; and it wants to know the new administration’s position changes anything.    

SG Will Influence Supreme Court Decision

Noel Francisco, the current acting solicitor general, is Trump’s pick for the job. His personal opinions of sports betting are undeclared, but he will ultimately have the greatest influence on the Supreme Court’s decision.

It is believed that Francisco could file his recommendation to the court next month, a hypothesis supported by this week’s meeting in Washington.

Following the closed-door session on Monday, Drazin told’s John Brennan there was “nothing surprising” about the line of questioning from the solicitor general’s office.

Meanwhile, he said, the New Jersey representatives pressed the point that Judge Julio Fuentes, who voted against the state in its 2013 sports betting case, was the only judge of three to vote in favor of the state in August. In other words, the judge whose opinion formed the basis of New Jersey’s original rejection has changed his mind.

“Everybody seems to agree that this is a fascinating case,” Drazin said. “We’ll see what happens.”

No Decision Before the Fall

Drazin hopes that the court might ultimately rule that PASPA, the 1992 federal bill that prohibits sports betting, is unconstitutional because it interferes with states’ rights to make their own laws on gambling. Alternatively, they might rule that it is unconstitutional but that New Jersey is within its rights to not enforce it within their borders. Drazin said the former would be preferable.

New Jersey is unlikely to receive a decision on whether the Supreme Court will accept the case until the fall.

Attorneys for the NFL, NCAA, MLB, NBA, and NHL, longstanding opponents of New Jersey’s sports betting plight, also met the Solicitor General’s staff on Monday in a separate meeting.