New Jersey’s sports betting advocates have won a significant legal victory after the Third Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to a full rehearing of the state’s recent court defeat.
On Wednesday, the Court announced it was vacating the August ruling by a three-judge panel and would hear new oral arguments before all active Third Circuit justices. With a majority of justices having voted for a rehearing, this marks the first victory New Jersey has won in its multi-year fight to bring legal sports betting to the Garden State.
There’s no date scheduled for the rehearing but sports law attorney Daniel Wallach suggested oral arguments could be held as early as December or January. Twelve active justices – including Marjorie Rendell and Maryanne Trump Barry, both of whom ruled against the state in August – will listen to the arguments.
Should New Jersey’s arguments prevail, the state’s opponents – the US Department of Justice, the four major pro sports leagues and the NCAA – would likely petition the US Supreme Court for a stay. New Jersey could also petition the Supremes if the Third Circuit rules against the state. But should New Jersey prevail and the Supremes opt not to hear the case, the state could be taking legal sports bets sometime next year.
HOW’D WE GET HERE
In 2012, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation authorizing sports betting at Atlantic City casinos and state racetracks. The DOJ and the leagues filed legal objections, accusing the state of violating the 1992 federal PASPA sports betting prohibition. The courts agreed and slapped an injunction on New Jersey’s plans.
But the state seized on a DOJ attorney’s comment that there was nothing in PASPA that prevented New Jersey from repealing state-level prohibitions on betting. State legislators passed a new law in 2014 that didn’t explicitly authorize or regulate sports betting, but simply allowed casinos and tracks to get on with it.
The DOJ and the leagues again objected and again a federal judge agreed, saying New Jersey’s partial repeal amounted to authorization. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals again upheld this lower court’s ruling, but Justice Julio Fuentes – the only justice who served on both panels – strongly dissented, saying that the majority justices were arguing that New Jersey had no option but to uphold state-level prohibitions. This was the exact opposite of what the same Court claimed in 2013 when it rejected New Jersey’s original plan.
There have been a number of other US states that have filed largely symbolic sports betting bills in the past few years and a new one was filed just this week by Pennsylvania Rep. Nick Kotik. Suffice it to say, if New Jersey prevails, many more states will look to jump on this bandwagon.