New Jersey Loses! (Federal Judge Rules Against New Jersey Sportsbetting Law)

New Jersey’s 2012 law to introduce legalized sports betting was struck down after a federal judge issued a permanent injunction against the law on Thursday night, declaring it to be a violation of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), under which betting on sports was prohibited in 46 of the 50 states and only Nevada, grandfathered under the law, was allowed to have full sportsbetting.

newjerseyThe injunction was granted by US District Michael Shipp to a consortium of powerful sports entities who sought to block the New Jersey move, including the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and NCAA.  The federal Department of Justice also joined the effort to stop the New Jersey law from going into effect.

Several industry and legal experts suggested that the ruling by Judge Shipp was unsurprising, despite the apparent unconstitutionality of the existing PASPA statute, meaning that Shipp may have taken a conservative stance, secure in the knowledge that the matter was likely to be appealed anyway (probably heading to the US Supreme Court), as well as a federal legislative fight.

One of the 2012 New Jersey bill’s biggest supporters, prominent NJ State Senator Ray Lesniak (who often backs NJ casino interests), issued a brief statement of disappointment. “This is a huge disappointment for all of us who continue to believe that New Jersey should have the right to allow sports betting,” Lesniak said in a statement. “Along with online gaming, sports betting would allow New Jersey to be in the forefront of the modern gaming industry, creating jobs and providing both immediate and long-term economic benefits.”

Lesniak also announced that New Jersey will immediately appeal the decision.  The state apparantly has two avenues to pursue in continuing its legal challenge, the first being the perceived unconstitutionality of PASPA as it currently exists, the second being a more technical point in which the NCAA and the four professional sports leagues were granted legal standing to file for their injunction.

As Shipp wrote in his 45-page opinion, which was released last night: “Although some of the questions raised in this case are novel, judicial intervention is generally unwarranted no matter how unwise a court considers a policy decision of the legislative branch.  As such, to the extent the people of New Jersey disagree with PASPA, their remedy is not through passage of a state law or through the judiciary, but through the repeal or amendment of PASPA in Congress.”  The passage clearly indicated Shipp’s intent to defer the matter to higher courts and national legislators in Washington, DC.

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