New Jersey‘s gamble on legalising sports betting in the state hit a major obstacle Thursday when federal judge Michael Shipp delivered his judgement after considering evidence from hearings held earlier in February.
In the New Jersey vs. national sports leagues and the US Department of Justice case, the judge granted a permanent injunction barring the Garden State from offering intrastate sports betting, effectively nullifying a state law signed last year by Governor Chris Christie.
The matter is unlikely to remain dormant, however; legal experts with both pro and con views have predicted that whichever side won the case, an appeal to the Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, and possibly in the future to the U.S. Supreme Court, would be made by the loser, so great are the implications for states’ rights and sports betting in the USA.
New Jersey had challenged the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which constrains sports betting to just four US states with its new law, and subsequently faced litigation, initially from the national sports leagues and more recently from the DoJ.
In his 45-page opinion, Judge Shipp found that the federal government had established rational and logical reasons for implementing the PASPA, and said that judicial intervention was not warranted “…no matter how unwise a court considers a policy decision of the legislative branch.”
He added that although the citizens of New Jersey in general do not agree with the PASPA, the solution was not the passage of a unilateral state law, or through judicial channels, but should rather be approached through Congressional initiatives seeking the repeal or amendment of the Act in question.
Judge Shipp upheld the sports leagues and DoJ view that PASPA does not interfere with states’ rights because it does not force the states to do anything – it merely stops them from legalising sports betting.
In late 2011, 64 percent of New Jersey adult residents approved the concept of intrastate sports betting in a referendum.
Industry observers will now watch the reaction of New Jersey’s state government to the defeat; the media consensus is that an appeal is almost certain.
But for now, the implementation of New Jersey’s sports betting law must remain in limbo.