Gov. Chris Christie’s administration has already appealed the decision.
By Peter Gleason
New Jersey is on a federal court losing streak of epic, Sixers’ proportions.
A federal judge in Trenton Friday night ruled that New Jersey cannot partially lift a prohibition on sports betting in an effort to boost the state’s struggling horse racing and casino industries.
The decision from District Judge Michael Shipp was expected, since he had ruled similarly in the past.
The state, locked in a legal battle with the NCAA and four professional sports leagues, is expected to appeal.”We are going to continue pursuing every legal option available,” State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) said in a statement. “The economic impact that sports wagering can have on New Jersey is far too important to simply shrug our shoulders and move on.”
A federal law bans New Jersey and most other states from authorizing betting on sports. The state contended that it did not want to license or authorize the betting. Instead, it was seeking to end a prohibition and would not regulate sports betting.
Shipp agreed with the sports leagues that setting parameters such as limiting sports gambling to certain places amounts to regulation. But he noted that he “finds that the present case is not nearly as clear as either the leagues or the defendants assert.”
While Shipp agreed with the central part of the sports’ leagues argument, he dismissed some of their arguments.
New Jersey has been pushing to allow sports betting at horse tracks and casinos. Voters have approved the concept, but a federal court rejected it in a slightly different form. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case this year, and it seemed that might be the end of it.
But as the financial crisis in Atlantic City’s casinos deepened, Gov. Chris Christie’s administration tried a new approach. Instead of legalizing sports gambling in defiance of the leagues and federal government, it called for not enforcing the state’s ban. The Legislature followed with a bill to lift the ban as it pertained to casinos and tracks. Christie signed that into law last month.
Shortly after the judge’s decision was announced, a spokesman for the governor, Michael Drewniak, said the state had filed a notice of appeal.
The NCAA and four major professional sports leagues contend that federal law would allow the state to lift the ban – but not to allow sports betting with some conditions, such as limiting it to certain locations and keeping minors from participating.