US Supreme Court to Consider Taking Arguments on New Jersey Sports Betting Award Case

Posted on: May 4, 2020, 02:15h. 

Last updated on: May 4, 2020, 03:29h.

The nation’s top jurists will consider whether the nation’s biggest sporting organizations owe the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association any money as a result of their efforts to block the state’s wagering law. That comes two years and a day after the US Supreme Court delivered the historic ruling that opened the door to legalized sports betting across the country,

New Jersey sports betting
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy shows the bets he made when Monmouth Park opened its William Hill sportsbook nearly two years ago. New Jersey’s horsemen are seeking damages from the major sporting organizations, who got an injunction to keep them from taking bets for nearly four years. (Image: Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images)

During the court’s May 15 conference, the nine justices will discuss whether they should get involved in the restitution dispute between the horsemen and the NCAA and the four major professional sports leagues: the NBA, NFL, NBA, and MLB. At issue is how much the horsemen believe they are owed for being unable to operate a sportsbook at Monmouth Park for nearly four years while the case made its way through the court system.

New Jersey passed a sports betting law in 2014 – after the courts ruled a previous law was not valid – that prompted the leagues to seek an injunction blocking the state from taking bets. In receiving the injunction, the leagues put up a $3.4 million bond. Last year, a federal appellate court ruled the horsemen were entitled to that money, plus interest.

However, the horsemen argue that since the injunction kept them being able to take bets, the plaintiffs are responsible for paying about $150 million in damages, which is the estimated amount the track would have made over the time frame in question.

If four of the nine justices agree, the panel will hear the case.

If the justices decline, it will revert to the federal district court level – barring a settlement between the groups – to determine an award amount.

Leagues Say Order Was Valid

In March, the leagues filed a request to the Supreme Court asking it to review the lower court’s decision. In its argument, the leagues said the district judge issuing the injunction back in 2014 made the correct ruling because it was bound by precedent. The Supreme Court’s landmark 2018 decision eventually made that precedent obsolete.

Not content to declare victory, respondent demanded millions of dollars in damages on the theory that it was ‘wrongfully restrained’ for 28 days by the 2014 TRO,” the leagues’ March 9 petition stated.

However, the horsemen claim the leagues acted in “bad faith” by claiming they would be damaged as a result of expanded legalized sports betting.

Horsemen Say District Court Must Act First

In its response, the horsemen detail how they got to the $150 million figure they seek.

The horsemen cited research by Chris Grove, a partner at gaming research firm Eilers and Krejcik, that estimated the sportsbook would have won about $10.2 million during the month the restraining order was in effect.

For the period after that, from Nov. 22, 2014 to May 14, 2018, sports betting at Monmouth Park would have generated about $139.7 million.

The New Jersey horsemen argue the Supreme Court’s involvement in the case at this time is premature. As the appellate court’s ruling is preliminary, the horsemen claim the next appropriate step is for the district court to determine an award amount, and for that to make it though the appeals process to the Supreme Court.

“The mere ‘fact’ that a judgment of the lower courts is not a final one is ‘itself alone’ ‘sufficient ground for the denial’ of the petition,” the horsemen’s response states.