New Jersey: PASPA unconstitutional, sports leagues talking out their ass

TAGs: New Jersey Online Gambling, PASPA

new-jersey-paspa-unconstitutionalOn the day before Thanksgiving, the state of New Jersey filed papers opposing the pro and college sports leagues’ motion for summary judgment in their legal bid to shut down New Jersey’s push to legalize single-game sports betting. New Jersey simultaneously filed its own cross-motion for a summary judgment to toss out the leagues’ suit. The copy of the filing we received was heavily redacted, but here’s what we could make out in between the black bars.

In their appeal to District Court Judge Michael Shipp, New Jersey repeats its assertions that the leagues have failed to demonstrate they have the necessary standing to challenge the state’s plans. What’s more, “discovery has revealed that the leagues have no proof whatsoever to carry their burden to establish standing.” The commissioner of the NFL stated that his league does not “do studies on common sense,” but New Jersey argues that these types of “vague and counterintuitive statements” are insufficient to establish standing.

New Jersey argues that the leagues’ claims that their product would suffer concrete harm from legal sports betting in New Jersey – which, even if successful beyond its wildest dreams, would represent only a tiny fraction of the billions presently being wagered with corner bookies and international online gambling sites – is the result of “deeply implausible speculation” and must therefore be dismissed. New Jersey points to the simultaneous growth in popularity of both the leagues’ product and sports betting to further rubbish the leagues’ claim of harm. “Speculation unsupported by facts cannot satisfy a plaintiff’s burden to survive summary judgment.”

Regarding the alleged threat sports betting poses to the ‘integrity’ of sports games, New Jersey reports that none of the league execs it deposed in preparation for filing its motion produced any studies, surveys or charts scribbled on cocktail napkins to support their claims that sports betting would cause fans to view the games in a negative light. The NCAA exec stated in his deposition that he was “relying on conversations and my job responsibilities” to support his assertions. As for the alleged scourge of match fixing, New Jersey claims the pro leagues have experienced only two match fixing incidents, both of which occurred over sixty years ago. New Jersey acknowledges there have been more recent incidents at the college level, but “the few events have occurred have been sporadic in nature and limited to isolated schools.”

If Shipp doesn’t agree on the issue of standing, New Jersey also argues that PASPA – the 1992 federal prohibition that restricts single-game sports betting to Nevada plus limited forms of betting in Delaware, Montana and Oregon – is unconstitutional because it “does not prohibit sports wagering; it requires New Jersey to prohibit sports wagering.” [Emphasis in the original.) By attempting to “commandeer state legislative powers to achieve a federal objective,” PASPA is agin’ the Constitution, and that makes Baby Jesus and Sarah Palin cry.

Furthermore, Nevada’s single-game carve-out amounts to giving Congress “a free hand to pick winners and losers among the states.” Would Americans tolerate Congress passing an Act to “limit car manufacturing to Michigan, cigarette manufacturing to Virginia, or fish processing to Alaska?” The Supreme Court has stated that such discrimination “is permissible only where disparities are justified by the presence of a ‘local evil’,” yet Congress determined sports betting to be a “national problem.” Regardless, PASPA “turns the equal-sovereignty principle on its head” by regulating “only states where sports wagering did not exist.”

New Jersey points out that PASPA’s stated goal to “stop the spread” of “state-sponsored” sports betting has been an abject failure, as turnover at Nevada sportsbooks has nearly doubled since the Act was passed. Nevada’s boon has been the result of “a massive transfer of revenue from New Jersey to Nevada and other favored states, which operate free from competition.” Despite the Senate Committee that gave birth to PASPA holding the view that “all such sports gambling is harmful,” it nonetheless approved legislation that “protected all gambling activity of some states, while denying others the right to permit any such activity.”

On the same day that New Jersey filed its papers, the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association filed a motion to intervene in the case, claiming that if racetracks like Monmouth Park aren’t allowed the extra revenue stream that a sportsbook could provide, their already grim financial future will turn Hunger Games grim. As reported by’s John Brennan, the horsemen’s motion echoes the state’s constitutional arguments, saying that if PASPA is ruled to be legal, it amounts to turning the 46 states that didn’t get a carve-out into “federal quasi-colonies.” Oh, them’s fighting words…


views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of