Legal NJ Sports Betting Hopes Take A Blow, Despite Assist From Congressman Pallone

J.R. Duren Updated on May 25, 2017
NJ sports betting hopes

New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone is continuing his fight to bring sports betting to the Garden State, in more ways than one.

The US Solicitor General’s office told the US Supreme Court not to hear New Jersey’s case in its quest to legalize sports betting. That happened despite Pallone’s earlier plea to the SG to do the opposite in the ongoing federal court case.

A day after that setback for NJ sports betting, Pallone introduced a new bill in Congress on gaming laws, including sports betting.

The topic of sports betting has been one of Pallone’s signature issues for a couple of years now.

Pallone tries to assist NJ sports betting

With the state’s sports betting appeal awaiting a decision to take the case from the US Supreme Court, Pallone reasserted his intentions by sending a 14-page letter to Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall. His message? Take the case.

“The U.S. Supreme Court should take up the question of law that this case presents and answer it definitively in order to promote uniformity and consistency among the federal judiciary and state courts of last resort in properly applying the anti-commandeering doctrine under the Tenth Amendment.”

The beef: Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act

Pallone and many supporters of sports betting are hoping for the day when states aren’t bound under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).

Passed in 1992, the law prohibited sports gambling in all but a handful of grandfathered states. Nevada is the only place where single-game wagering takes place.

Pallone contends New Jersey should have the right to pass laws that allow sports gambling, which the state has done in the past only to be shot down in court.

Pallone’s argument: It’s already happening, $400 billion times over

The misconception with a law that prohibits sports betting is that the law prevents sports betting.

However, that’s not the case. We’re all aware that illegal sports betting occurs all across the country, and New Jersey is no exception. How big is the illegal sports betting industry?

Pallone brought the heavy artillery to answer that question:

“Despite being illegal in most states, traditional and Internet sports betting is widespread, and function almost exclusively through organized crime,” Pallone wrote in his letter. “Of the estimated $400 billion that is spent annually in the U.S. on sports betting, 99 percent is illegal.”

With all that under-the-table betting going on, states miss out on regulation and revenue from various taxes and licenses.

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New Jersey residents want legal sports betting

In 2011, citizens launched a referendum to legalize sports betting at casinos and racetracks in the state.

The referendum passed with 64 percent support, Pallone points out in his letter, and the state passed the Sports Wagering Act.

This, of course, didn’t sit well with professional sports leagues or with the NCAA, who have successfully blocked NJ’s sports laws in court.

What’s next: A decision, and Congressional action?

New Jersey’s case is not quite before the Supreme Court; it’s deciding whether to hear the case.

For a time, that seemed impossible, but New Jersey gained some momentum earlier this year when SCOTUS asked for the solicitor general’s opinion on the case. Of course, the negative SG opinion was bad news for New Jersey’s chances, although it’s not “game over” quite yet.

The highest court in the land should have a decision on whether to hear the case by this summer. Should it decide to allow the appeal, oral arguments will be sometime in the next year.

In the meantime, Pallone will try to change the law via a new bill he floated on Thursday:

The bill’s central component would be a full repeal of PASPA.

Will the legislation have a better chance at success than the NJ sports betting case? Only time will tell.

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