The ongoing lawsuit launched earlier this year by New Jersey State Sen. Raymond Lesniak and the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association (iMEGA) which sought to overturn the U.S. federal ban on state-regulated sportsbetting, took another turn on Friday when iMEGA filed a brief contesting a Dept. of Justice motion to dismiss.
The crux of iMEGA’s lawsuit is that 1991’s Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which limited sports betting to four states – Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon – is unconstitutional, in that it imposes Federal control over the regulation of gambling, a sector traditionally reserved for individual states to regulate.
Further, iMEGA chairman Joe Brennan Jr. believes the Achilles Heel of their opponent’s argument is that when PAPSA was first proposed, the DOJ’s lawyers used the exact same constitutional point to bolster their opposition to the Act. As Brennan notes, “How can [the DOJ] now uphold a law it said was unconstitutional when it was enacted?”
Meanwhile, the need for New Jersey to get in on that lucrative sports betting action was underscored by the announcement today that the state will assume oversight of Atlantic City’s budget and finances for at least the next year. In return, the state is allowing the City to raise an extra $2.2M in property taxes over and above what current law allows them to collect – which equates to taking an extra $157 from the average homeowner’s wallet.
Ironically, NJ Gov. Chris Christie, who first proposed the state oversight plan, declined to join forces with Sen. Lesniak and iMEGA in their fight to bring sports betting revenues to the state, saying he needed to focus on “more immediate issues facing the citizens of New Jersey.” Given that iMEGA’s Brennan estimated the sports betting market could realize $3.5B for AC’s casinos, the good governor’s stance is increasingly hard to fathom.