Entertainment & Sports Law

Leagues win a restraining order against NJ racetrack that wanted to allow sports gambling

  • Print.

Sports Betting

Image from Shutterstock.

A New Jersey federal district judge dealt a blow to a racetrack’s hopes of providing legal sports betting.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp of Trenton granted a temporary restraining order to several sports leagues, including the National Football League and the National Collegiate Athletic Association. According to ESPN, Shipp held that the leagues would suffer irreparable harm if a racetrack located in Monmouth, New Jersey, started taking sports bets. The track had originally planned to start offering sports betting on Sunday.

New Jersey has been trying to get sports betting off the ground for two years as a means of rescuing the state’s ailing gambling industry. According to ESPN, four casinos in Atlantic City have gone out of business in recent years. Last week, Republican Governor Chris Christie signed the Sports Wagering Law, which legalizes gambling for professional sporting events, while maintaining the state’s long-time ban on betting on college games. The state also hired Gibson Dunn & Crutcher partner Ted Olson, a former U.S. Solicitor General, to argue against the petition for a restraining order filed by the sports leagues.

For their part, the sports leagues have argued that the Sports Wagering Law violates the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which prohibited states from authorizing, operating, advertising, promoting or licensing sports betting (the law did not apply to Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon). Olson, however, disagreed and argued that New Jersey was merely repealing, in part, an old law. “To follow the Third Circuit’s interpretation of PASPA, the Repealer [2014 Sports Wagering Act] expressly states that it is ‘not intended and shall not be construed as causing the State to sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license, or authorize by law or compact the placement or acceptance’ of a sports wager,” Olson and his team of attorneys wrote in their opposition to the restraining order.

“It’s incredibly disappointing,” Sen. Raymond Lesniak, a Democratic state legislator, said to ESPN. “It’s very, very important to both our casinos and racetracks, so we’re going to continue to pursue it.”

The case still has a long way to go. There are additional hearings scheduled in district court, and an appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals seems likely, according to ESPN. The U.S. Department of Justice could also weigh in.

As reported in-depth in the November issue of the ABA Journal, this is not the first setback the gambling industry has faced in its efforts to bring sports betting to New Jersey. In 2012, Gov. Christie had signed another law, approved by voters, which had been intended to allow sports wagering at casinos and racetracks. In three separate cases, courts rejected this effort by the state to legalize sports betting, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review those lower courts’ decisions in June.

Related article:

ABA Journal: “NJ suffers a setback in its bid for a sports gambling law”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.