US appeals court New Jersey sports betting Ray Lesniak Third Circuit

New Jersey State Senator Ray Lesniak is all smiles after a US appeals court agreed to review its previous decision that currently prevents his state from legalizing sports betting. (Image:

The US appeals court for the Third Circuit has agreed to reconsider a New Jersey sports betting case less than two months after two of its judges upheld a previous ruling preventing the state from legalizing such wagering.

In late August, Judges Marjorie Rendell and Maryanne Trump Barry decided New Jersey’s wishes to legalize sports betting violated the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992.

Judge Julio Fuentes disagreed, but he was outnumbered in the three-judge panel decision.

On behalf of Governor Chris Christie, the state requested the Third Circuit to reconsider the judgment.

On Wednesday, the request was approved, a majority of active judges agreeing to rehear the case in what’s a rarity in judicial federal appeals courts.

“The petitions for rehearing are GRANTED,” the court said in a statement. “The opinion and judgment entered August 25, 2015 are hereby vacated.”

Jumping for Joy

State Senator Ray Lesniak (D-District 20) was largely responsible for bringing Internet gambling to New Jersey. The longtime politician is a favorite to replace Christie when his term expires.

“I’m jumping for joy,” Lesniak told the Washington Post regarding the rehearing. “I would suggest everyone book their rooms in Atlantic City for Super Bowl week, because we should have sports betting by then.”

He followed up his comments online tweeting, “Sports betting would give AC the needed boost and replace many lost revenue and jobs the state lost last year.”

Lesniak’s sponsored legislation SB 2460 was passed and signed into law last October. The bill repeals federal prohibitions on sports betting, but residents still aren’t able to bet on games as the proposal has remained in limbo following a lawsuit placed by the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and NCAA.

A judge ruled in favor of the sports leagues, and the three-judge circuit court sustained the verdict.

The US appeals court’s motion to retry is almost unprecedented.

An “en banc” proceeding brings at least 12 of the 23 judges to the room to hear testimony and shows that a majority of the judges feel a previous decision was perhaps erroneous.

Betting on Outcome

Lawmakers in New Jersey seem rather confident the eventual ruling by the Third Circuit court will support its wishes to legalize sports betting.

An effervescent Lesniak wasn’t alone. US Representatives for New Jersey Frank Pallone(D) and Frank LoBiondo(R) shared in his excitement.

In a joint statement the congressmen said they “are glad that the ruling, which robbed New Jersey of the opportunity to benefit from the billion-dollar sports betting industry, will be reconsidered.”

“Several states can already operate sports betting, but New Jersey has been shut out despite the will of our citizens,” they continued. “Existing federal law picks winners and losers, and is unconstitutional and arbitrary.”

The decision to overturn its own previous ruling will also be relatively arbitrary for the court.

“No pun intended, all bets are off,” David Wallach, a leading gaming attorney said. “This is an important case with national significance.”