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NJ Wants to Squash Bookies, 3rd Cir Weighs In

New Jersey had the opportunity to persuade the Third Circuit that it should be allowed to offer betting on professional and college sports, reports The Inquirer. With only four other states in the country allowed to wager on sports, many other jurisdictions are watching this case closely to see if they can also get in on the action.

But don't hedge your bets too quickly, New Jersey may have its day in court, but it doesn't mean they'll win.

The Bradley Act, or formally the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) prohibits “betting, gambling, or wagering scheme based, directly or indirectly…, on one or more competitive games in which amateur or professional athletes participate, or are intended to participate, or on one or more performances of such athletes in such games.” Four states have exemptions to PASPA based on pre-existing sports gaming laws: Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana. New Jersey wants to be one of those states, but it’s got a lot to go up against.

The Inquirer reports that New Jersey missed the deadline to grandfather in sports betting in 1993, when the measure failed to make it on the ballot. Eighteen years later, in 2011 New Jersey voters approved a referendum legalizing sports betting. Governor Christie signed the law last year, but sports organizations including the NCAA, NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB moved swiftly to block its application by suing in federal court.

The United States District Court for the District of New Jersey granted the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and permanent injunction finding that PASPA is not unconstitutional and does not violate New Jersey’s sovereign rights. Will the Third Circuit agree?

It may not be New Jersey’s lucky day. Judge Fuentes is one of the judges on the panel hearing oral arguments on the Third Circuit and he also presided over a 2009 Delaware case that partially struck down a law that allowed full sports betting in Delaware’s casinos. In that case, the Third Circuit followed the sports organizations’ strict interpretation to grandfather in betting schemes already conducted by the state and found no infringement on states’ sovereignty.

Given this context, together with the fact that New Jersey’s law was not grandfathered but rather enacted eighteen years later, we’d be surprised to see a different outcome a mere four years later. For now, if you go to Atlantic City you’ll have to stick with slot machines or card games.

We’ll see if the Third Circuit decides otherwise.

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