The judge overseeing the suit brought by the NCAA and four pro sports leagues to block the state of New Jersey’s sports betting plans has declared he will hear constitutional arguments from both parties at 1pm on Feb. 14 aka Valentine’s Day. No doubt this has sent both parties scrambling to determine (a) what type of chocolates US District Court Judge Michael Shipp prefers and (b) whether NHL commish Gary Bettman is willing to wear a Cupid costume to the hearing (because, you know, it’s not like Bettman is busy actually running a league or anything).
The Feb. 14 hearing will consider New Jersey’s assertion that the 1992 federal PASPA law’s restriction of single-game sports betting to within Nevada borders (and half-assed parlay-style betting to three other states) is unconstitutional in that it unfairly elevates some states above others. As prominent gaming attorney I. Nelson Rose told the San Francisco Chronicle, this was like Congress declaring that “only a dozen states can have sound in their movie theaters.” The Press of Atlantic City reported that Shipp set the date despite having yet to receive any indication whether the US federal government intends to intervene in the case. Shipp has given the feds until Jan. 20 to decide whether to shit or get off the PASPA pot.
Meanwhile, New Jersey has been granted a two-week extension to submit its latest written response to the leagues’ original complaint. NorthJersey.com’s John Brennan reports that the state will now have until Jan. 18 to present its rebuttal. Also, the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association filed a ‘notice of rejoinder’ on Friday in order to merge its motion for summary judgment of the leagues’ suit with the motion filed by the state. Citing their dire financial projections in a sports betting-free New Jersey, the horsemen filed their motion back in November, but are now attempting to streamline the court proceedings by piggybacking along with the state.
One of the state’s premier racetracks, Monmouth Park, has been an ardent supporter of New Jersey’s sports betting plans. Dennis Drazin, whose Darby Development firm operates the track, long ago stated his eagerness to construct the state’s first sportsbook onsite and take play-money wagers until the state gave him the legal say-so to go the real-money route. Drazin hoped this real-money day would come in time for the Super Bowl on Feb. 3, but Drazin has now targeted the NCAA basketball March Madness tournament as the premier event to help launch sports betting in the Garden State. Drazin says the delay isn’t purely the result of the legal fight, noting that the track has served as a staging site for Hurricane Sandy relief workers as well as hosting a major shelter set up post-Sandy by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. As a result, Drazin says the track wasn’t able “to move as quickly as we’d hoped to make renovations to turn our cafeteria into a sports bar.”