Court torpedoes law that authorized sports gambling in New Jersey

New Jersey’s bid to legalize sports betting has once again been shot down by a federal appellate court but advocates say they are willing to keep rolling the dice because taxpayers have an interest in saving the gambling industry.

The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia issued a 2-to-1 decision on Aug. 25 against a 2014 law that authorized sports gambling in New Jersey.

The ruling, which was authored by Judge Marjorie Rendell, upholds a 2013 decision by the same court that torpedoed 2012 legislation approved by New Jersey lawmakers legalizing sports betting.

Gov. Chris Christie signed amended legislation last year, but the court ruled that the state’s law still violates the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) passed by Congress in 1992 to prohibit state-sanctioned gambling except in Nevada, Oregon, Montana and Delaware.

New Jersey lawmakers have been trying since 2009 to enable legal sports gambling at casinos and racetracks in the Garden State.

Monmouth Park was poised to begin offering sports betting last fall before U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp ruled on behalf of five professional sports leagues and the National Collegiate Athletic Association in preventing the law from moving ahead.

The U.S. Third Circuit upheld Shipp’s ruling in the Aug. 25 decision with Judge Maryanne Trump, sister of Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump, joining Rendell in the majority.

State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, who sponsored the 2014 sports betting legalization bill, issued a statement expressing encouragement by a dissenting opinion offered by Judge Julio Fuentes. The Democratic lawmaker said he expects the New Jersey Racing Association will file an appeal that the Senate will support.

“In his dissent, Judge Fuentes acknowledged my legislation does not violate federal law against sports betting,” said Lesniak. “We will use that as a basis to ask the entire Third Circuit to reconsider the panel’s majority opinion.”

The press office for Christie referred comments on the appellate court ruling to the State Attorney General’s office. Lee Moore, a spokesman for acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said, “We are reviewing the decision, and the dissent, and considering our legal options.”

“Today’s decision by the Third Circuit on sports betting and how gaming is regulated encourages deeper examination about the best path forward on this issue,” said American Gaming Association President Geoff Freeman. “With Americans betting at least $140 billion on sports illegally each year, it’s clear that current law is not achieving its intended result.”

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