Federal Court Battle to Legalize Sports Gambling
The state of New Jersey and the four major professional sports, the NFL, MLB, NHL and NBA along with the NCAA are engaged in a knockdown winner take all fight over legalizing sports betting. New Jersey wants a piece of the $500 billion bet on sports in the United States on a yearly basis. Of this total, only about one percent of it takes place through legalized betting in Nevada.
For the state of New Jersey, legalized betting could help their battered economy which is suffering from the prolonged impact of the US recession and the traumatic devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. Governor Christie of the state of New Jersey wants to take sports betting out of the hands of the criminals and into the control of the state.
The sports leagues and the NCAA have argued that the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act prohibits gambling in all but four states. Sports gambling is permitted in only Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon. In 2007 Oregon ended its association with sports gambling and the betting in Montana and Delaware is limited to fantasy football and multiple bets within one wager on the NFL respectively.
The fear of the sports leagues is that if gambling is legalized than it will undermine their sporting events because people will question the validity of the contests in the same manner that people questioned Anderson Silva’s loss to Chris Weidman in the Mixed Martial Arts championship that took place in Las Vegas on July 6, 2013.
So far, the sports leagues are winning the fight as they have been able to ward off New Jersey’s attempt to have legalized betting. New Jersey started this fight when they had a sports gambling referendum vote on whether to introduce sports betting in the state at Atlantic City casinos and horse tracks. The people of New Jersey voted for the gambling in a landslide voting victory. However, the sports leagues were prepared and they went to federal court and won an initial victory when the federal judge ruled in their favour.
As such, the first battle went to the Sports leagues but it looks like the war might be won by the state of New Jersey. New Jersey has appealed this verdict and are arguing that the federal law displays favoritism to certain states. Governor Christie has already stated that if they lose at the appeals level that the state of New Jersey will take this fight to the US Supreme Court.
New Jersey has a couple arguments in its favor. The US Supreme Court has just overturned parts of the Voting Act which in doing so benefits the New Jersey argument. Chief Justice Roberts in his decision noted that each state has the right to have equal sovereignty over its affairs.
One can interpret these words as the US Supreme Court stating that each state has the right to exert control over its affairs and this would seem to help the state of New Jersey’s argument that they have a right to control betting in their state if they desire.
If the federal court of appeals interprets the statement of Chief Justice Roberts in a similar manner than this could be a landmark decision for the state of New Jersey and several other states in the United States. Legalized betting could be an economic windfall for a state such as New Jersey and to think that it could eventually be a product of the overturning of a part of the Voting Act would transform sports betting in the United States.
This battle looks like it might go all the way to the US Supreme Court. I don’t know what the live betting odds of this federal court battle might be but I would be putting my money on New Jersey to win this battle over the legalization of sports gambling.