Thursday is Valentine’s Day, but there will be no love lost between the state of New Jersey and the sports leagues opposing the state’s sports betting aspirations. The two sides – with the US Department of Justice squarely in the leagues’ corner – are set to square off in oral arguments before Judge Michael Shipp in US District Court in Trenton on Thursday over New Jersey’s desire to offer sports betting to state residents. Both sides have submitted written briefs on the constitutionality of the federal prohibition on sports betting (PASPA) and now we get to see just how silver these high-priced attorneys’ tongues really are.
Meanwhile, two of New Jersey’s Congressional representatives have reintroduced their respective pieces of federal sports betting legislation. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) and Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) debuted their bills in January 2012 but neither acquired much traction. Pallone’s bill would add New Jersey to the other four states that received PASPA carveouts, while LoBiondo wants to give every state in the union a three-year window in which to decide whether they want sports betting and to pass the relevant legislation. Given the previous lack of interest each bill received in Washington, the reintroduction is primarily symbolic; the bipartisan pair’s way of garnering a little more media attention ahead of Thursday’s Titanic Tilt in Trenton.
CANADIAN SENATE RESUMES DEBATE ON C-290 SPORTS BET BILL
It took over a week since senators returned to Ottawa, but Canada’s Senate finally resumed debate on the country’s C-290 single-game sports betting legislation on Tuesday. Actually, the ‘debate’ consisted of a single speech by Conservative Senator Linda Frum, who is firmly agin’ the idea of allowing Canadians to bet on sporting events via their provincial lottery corporations. Frum’s speech was largely a greatest hits compilation of the inherently speculative and anecdotal testimony provided late last year to a Senate committee by anti-gambling advocates and representatives of Major League Baseball.
Among the whoppers Frum repeated were the leagues’ claims that they weren’t even aware that Canada’s House of Commons had unanimously passed C-290 in March 2012 until Senate committee members contacted them in the fall. Frum also raised the threat of the NFL deciding not to expand into Toronto if C-290 was approved, forgetting the NFL’s apparent eagerness to consider expanding into the UK, where stadiums actually contain their own betting shops.
Frum had harsh words for in-play wagering, which would provide “70 different incentives for cheating and corruption per match.” But Frum really ramped up the rhetoric for her big finish, describing sports betting as “a scourge on the purity of the pursuit of athletic excellence” and accusing companies that offer sports bets of being “entirely amoral with no vested interest in any outcome, good or bad.” Frum conjures up an image of a fresh-faced Canadian kid dreaming of becoming a hockey player, only to have C-290 “pervert those aspirations.” Sports betting “has the power to … ruin the meaning of what it is to be a champion” and “wherever single-sport betting is sanctioned, corruption follows and sport is demeaned.” Passing C-290 – a bill that “makes gambling more accessible and attractive to teenage boys” – would leave “a moral stain” on Canada.
Yikes… To think we were led to believe the Senate intended to let C-290 die “a natural death.” We didn’t realize it was going to end up a sacrificial victim on the altar of disinformation. Frankly, we’re amazed Frum didn’t suggest the real reason Adolf Hitler refused to shake Jesse Owens’ hand at the 1936 Berlin Olympics was not because Owens had just disproved the Nazis’ cockamamie Aryan supremacy theories, but that Herr Schicklgruber had a million deutschmarks riding on German sprinter Erich Borchmeyer (who finished fifth). Tune in tomorrow, when some senator rises to propose a frame-by-frame examination of the Zapruder film to determine whether there was a betting wicket behind the grassy knoll.
NO POPE PROPS FOR LOTO-QUÉBEC
Loto-Québec may have decided to follow the Atlantic Lottery Corporation’s lead by offering non-sporting event prop wagers, but the lottery corp in Canada’s most Catholic province has drawn the line at wagering on who will take Pope Benedict’s place as the chief defender of priest-on-altar-boy relations. Regardless of the fact that local boy Cardinal Marc Ouellet is the odds-on favorite to be awarded custody of the pointy hat, Loto-Québec spokesman Jean-Pierre Roy told the Canadian Press it would be “unbecoming” to offer religion-based props. Damn… And we had $50 riding on when the Hidden Imam would return…