Wednesday February 19,2014 : NEW JERSEY LODGES U.S. SUPREME COURT APPEAL ON SPORTS BETTING (Update)
State questions the equity of the federal PASPA restricting sports betting to just four US states.
New Jersey has entered the next, and possibly final, stage of its bid to legitimise sports betting in the state, lodging an appeal in the US Supreme Court that lower court decisions against it were wrong, and that the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act restricting sports betting to just four US states is unconstitutional and violates states' rights.
New Jersey has thus far failed to convince lower courts, including a federal appeals court, of the justice of its case. The Garden State is now appealing to the nation's highest court to consider two legal questions:
- Does the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act usurp state authority, in violation of the 10th amendment?
- Does its granting permission to only four states to conduct sports betting violate the principal of equal sovereignty?
The opposing view to that of New Jersey is that in the past the state was given the opportunity to become the fifth state to conduct sports wagering under the PASPA but failed to act during a prescribed window.
The Associated Press news agency notes that there is no guarantee that the US Supreme Court will even include the case on its very busy court roll – typically only a small percentage of supplicants are heard.
However it is an interesting case with wide constitutional, social and political connotations, and that may persuade the judges to hear it.
Federal lawyers will present the somewhat convoluted argument that no federal law directly prohibits individuals from betting on sports. Rather, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act makes it unlawful for a "governmental entity" to licence or authorise sports wagering activity.
AP reports that in riposte the New Jersey legal representatives point out that: "The ability of the states to convey a `label of legitimacy' on private conduct lies at the heart of their retained sovereignty. Congress may express its own disapproval of sports wagering through direct regulation of the activity, but, having declined to enact any such direct regulation, has no authority to regulate the approval or disapproval expressed by the states."
Online gambling supporter and New Jersey State Sen. Raymond Lesniak says that the Supreme Court has recently favoured the concept of states' rights, and that he is therefore optimistic that if heard his state may prevail.
In a 2011 referendum New Jersey residents opted for strictly regulated and licensed sports betting, after which the state passed legalization enabling such wagering; this legalization is currently held in abeyance pending the outcome of the litigation.
Ranged against New Jersey is the US Department of Justice and four major US sports leagues, which want the status quo to remain.
It could be June this year before the Supreme Court finalises its schedule of hearings.