Trade association and state combine to fight PASPA
The Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association (iMEGA) has announced that it is contesting a motion made by the US Department of Justice that seeks to dismiss iMEGA’s challenge to the Federal law prohibiting the expansion of state-regulated sports betting.
iMEGA, along with counsel for New Jersey State Sen. Raymond Lesniak and Senate President Stephen Sweeney, filed the brief with the US Circuit Court.
The lawsuit, iMEGA, et al v. Eric Holder, Attorney-General of the United States, seeks the overturn of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1991, a Federal law which limits state-licensed and regulated sports betting to only four states: Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon.
According to PASPA, none of the other 46 states may enact sports betting legalization, which iMEGA, Lesniak and Sweeney say is an unconstitutional intrusion by the Federal government into a matter – the regulation of gambling – which is reserved for the states to determine.
“We’re confident the Court will refuse the government’s motion,” said Joe Brennan Jr., iMEGA chairman this week. “We’ve already settled the question of our standing, which was recognized and confirmed in previous Federal court cases.”
Brennan pointed out that, ironically, the DOJ opposed PASPA when it was making its way through the US Congress in 1991, for exactly the same unconstitutional limits it created for state-regulated gambling.
“The DOJ has quite a knot to untie here,” said Brennan. “How can it now uphold a law it said was unconstitutional when it was enacted?”
The US Circuit Court is expected to rule on the motion before the end of the year.
The California state Senate recently voted to support iMEGA and New Jersey in the effort to overturn PASPA, approving a resolution by Sen. Roderick Wright (see previous InfoPowa reports).
The resolution also asks California Att. Gen. Jerry Brown to “take legal action” to “challenge enforcement” of the federal law, including filing a court brief supporting the New Jersey and iMEGA lawsuit to overturn the ban.
Wright estimated that Californians spend at least $500 million annually on sports betting even though it is not legal in the state. He won his colleagues’ support after noting the overturning the federal prohibition would be only the first of multiple steps that would be needed to allow sports betting in California.
“Then we will come back and fight it out here as to whether or not we actually pass a statute to engage in it,” he said.
On June 4th the New Jersey Senate’s Wagering & Tourism Committee voted 3-to-1 to approve the Intra-State Internet Gambling Bill out of committee. Under the terms of the bill, casino operators in Atlantic City would be able to apply for a license to offer Internet-based versions of all the games currently permitted in their land-based operations. Poker, blackjack, baccarat and other games would be available online only to New Jersey residents that are 21 years of age or older.