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Supreme Court Turns a Deaf Ear to New Jersey Sports Gambling Argument

Legalized New Jersey sports gambling suffered a defeat Monday. Basically, the US Supreme Court decided to not even listen to New Jersey's arguments in a dispute with the NCAA and the big four major professional sports leagues in the United States. The measure would have allowed the Garden State to offer brick-and-mortar and virtual sports betting options to its residents, and any visitors. The proposal actually began back in 2011. New Jersey residents overwhelmingly supported Governor Chris Christie legalizing state-based sports wagering, funneled through the already existing 12 casinos and 4 horse racing tracks in that state. Claiming that such action was in direct violation of the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), the NCAA collegiate sports league sued New Jersey, and the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB professional sports leagues backed the NCAA suit. The law does not affect existing legal offshore New Jersey online sports betting sites.

Sports betting in New Jersey was shot down once again. Christie was attempting to have the US Supreme Court take another look at the NCAA decision. A possible rewording of the PASPA legislation was the goal, if not its complete eradication. U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp in March of 2013 recommended that New Jersey get Congress involved if that was going to happen. Roughly 6 months later, a 2 - 1 split decision by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the major sports leagues. However, sole dissenter Judge Thomas Vanaskie stated in his minority opinion that, "PASPA attempts to implement federal policy by telling the states that they may not regulate an otherwise unregulated activity. The Constitution affords Congress no such power." With such support from Shipp and Vanaskie, as well as an entire state that is definitely behind legalized sports gambling, Christie went to the Supreme Court looking for a sympathetic ear.

There was no sympathy to be found, and sports betting in the great state of New Jersey is back to square one. However, Garden State Senator Ray Lesniak immediately announced after the decision that he is pushing forward with an alternate plan that would deliver legal sports betting in New Jersey before the start of the NFL season. That would be significant because both the NFL's New York Giants and New York Jets play their football in New Jersey's MetLife Stadium. The backing of sports gambling by New Jersey residents is public record, and it is estimated by industry analysts that between $400 and $500 billion per year is gambled in America. That is more money than is spent on films, books, amusements, and music entertainment combined in the United States annually. Many gambling industry experts also believe that as much as $400 billion of that money is wagered on sports alone.

On the anti-gambling side of the issue, it doesn't look like the Supreme Court will be ready to hear a New Jersey pro-sports-gambling argument anytime soon. In response to Governor Christie's request of a hearing regarding the NCAA-pro sports league decision, the highest court in the United States delivered a simple one line order with no comments added by the justices. While New Jersey residents and lawmakers, as well as many other Americans, point out that PASPA has worn out its welcome and is no longer relevant, the law was passed by Congress in 1992 to protect USA citizens. The law was aimed directly at high-stakes wagering, and not at the typical bet that 99% of US sports gamblers tend to make.

PASPA realized that some high level gamblers stood to win or lose so much money, that they might make attempts to corrupt the outcome of a sporting event. But former US Solicitor General Theodore Olson, acting as Governor Christie's lawyer, pointed to federalist principles that should override PASPA at the state level. It was his argument that the 1992 legislation "impermissibly trenches on the States' authority to regulate their own citizens, and it does so in a manner that discriminates among the States." Unfortunately, the Supreme Court decided to turn a deaf ear to New Jersey's arguments. While New Jersey state coffers will not be benefiting from the revenue generated by state-based sports betting anytime soon, New Jersey and USA residents have a legitimate option for placing wagers on their favorite sports teams. Currently, a handful of legally licensed and established offshore sportsbooks located outside of the United States legitimately offers Internet access to sports gambling for American and international players.