Department of Justice files notice that it will join sports leagues in attempting to block legal sports betting in the Garden State
New Jersey’s plans to legalise sports betting suffered a setback yesterday as the US Department of Justice joined a lawsuit filed by sports leagues aimed at blocking such regulation.
The DoJ claims it is intervening “for the purpose of defending the constitutional challenges to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (Paspa)”, which since 1992 has permitted sports betting in only four states: Nevada, Montana, Oregon and Delaware.
New Jersey’s plans to permit sports betting were first announced last July following an announcement by Governor Chris Christie (pictured) about his intention to challenge Paspa to allow sports betting at Atlantic City’s casinos and race tracks.
Christie said at the time the regulations his administration issued were not intended to overturn the ban, adding he believed that if the move was opposed at federal level the state would win on constitutional grounds. “If someone wants to stop us, then let them try to stop us,” he said. “Am I expecting there may be legal action taken against us to prevent it? Yes. But I have every confidence we’re going to be successful.”
The proposals immediately attracted strong opposition from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) along with the National Basketball Association, the Major League Baseball, the National Football League and the National Hockey League.
The leagues and associations argued the plans violate federal law and would harm the integrity of the sports, filing a lawsuit which stated: “This is an action challenging New Jersey’s plan to sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license, and authorise gambling on amateur and professional sports, in clear and flagrant violation of federal law.”
In yesterday’s filing at a federal district court in state capital Trenton, the DoJ asked for until 1 February to file responses to the state’s constitutional challenges. US District Court Judge Michael A. Shipp has scheduled arguments for 14 February.
However Joe Brennan Jr, director at the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association (iMEGA), argued the DoJ’s intervention would not alter New Jersey’s plans. “While the decision by the US Department of Justice is disappointing, it has little bearing on the heart of the matter – that this law preventing New Jersey from regulating sports betting is unconstitutional,” he said.
“New Jersey only wants to do what Nevada and Delaware are free to do – regulate and tax sports betting – to save Atlantic City’s casinos and the state’s race tracks. It is confusing why the Obama administration would oppose a law approved in New Jersey by a 2-to-1 margin in a reliable “blue state”. And though it’s not likely that US Attorney-General Eric Holder made this decision based on his recent work as counsel and crisis manager for the NFL, it is legitimate to ask why the DOJ would side with billionaire team owners over the voters of New Jersey,” added Brennan.