New Jersey’s push to legalize sports betting took a dramatic turn on Tuesday with news that state legislators had filed a so-called ‘nuclear option’ bill.
Last week, New Jersey Assemblymen Ralph Caputo and John Burzichelli filed A4303, which would remove and repeal all of the state’s prohibitions on betting on pro, college or amateur sporting events. The bill’s existence was first noticed by the New Jersey Law Journal’s Michael Booth.
The bill basically follows the direction of the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which has twice rejected New Jersey’s attempts to overturn the federal PASPA sports betting prohibition. While the Court blocked the state’s efforts to explicitly authorize sports betting within its borders, the Court also insisted New Jersey retained the option of totally foregoing enforcement of laws prohibiting the activity.
The Court never really expected New Jersey to exercise this ‘nuclear option,’ given that the state’s desire to overturn PASPA was intended to benefit Atlantic City’s struggling casinos and state racetracks. But A4303 would allow corner bookies to ply their trade openly, meaning state bettors – even those under 21 years of age – would have no need to go to casinos or tracks to place their wagers.
A4303’s sponsors included a note in their bill reminding everyone that the Court “made it clear that a total repeal by New Jersey of its ban on sports wagering would not violate PASPA.” The apparent hope is that the pro sports leagues and the US Department of Justice who opposed New Jersey’s legal betting push will similarly intervene to stop the anarchy that would result if A4303 were to pass, giving the state another opportunity to push for PASPA’s repeal as an unconstitutional restriction of state’s rights.
Caputo told NorthJersey.com’s John Brennan that the posted draft of A4303 was “not a final version and we’re not moving it ‘til we get it right.” Caputo said the Third Circuit justices had “made a statement that they couldn’t stop us, but it’s complicated.” Caputo said he and Burzichelli would “be talking to experts in the field” before proceeding.
Given its controversial ramifications, there may not be the political will in the New Jersey legislature to pass A4303. What’s more, New Jersey has petitioned the US Supreme Court to hear its appeal of the latest Third Circuit ruling. The Supremes declined to entertain the state’s last petition in 2014, but less eager state legislators may insist on waiting until the Supremes make their decision before taking a vote on A4303.