New Jersey to Seek US Supreme Court Appeal in Sports-Betting Legalization Case

Two separate petitions seeking to bring New Jersey’s stymied attempt to legalize sports betting and nullify the US’s PASPA law have been filed with the United States Supreme Court in recent days, in a last-gasp effort to activate a law legalizing such activity passed by New Jersey legislators back in 2014.

The two petitions for writs of certiorari, which are the format through which an appellate party submits a request to the Supreme Court, have been filed separately within the past two days by interested, pro-New Jersey parties.  The first petition was filed by attorneys for the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, which is affiliated with Monmouth Park Racetrack.  The track has long sought to find a way to add sports betting to its available wagering services, in the wake of a decades-long decline on traditional pari-mutuel wagering.

The second petition, filed just this week, is on behalf of Governor Chris Christie [as signee of the 2014 law] and the New Jersey legislature as a whole.  That petition was filed by New Jersey attorney Ted Olsen on behalf of the state’s interests.

Both petitions are the natural legal follow-up, longshot chance that it is, to the important en banc ruling handed down in August by the US’s Third Circuit Court of Appeals on the topic of whether the United States’ federal-level PASPA law [the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act].

The Third Circuit’s en banc review of its own earlier split ruling in the matter — which favored PASPA over New Jersey’s 2014 law — was itself a highly unusual occurrence.  For the US Supreme Court to now accept the matter (it’s actually three separate cases rolled into one) would be every bit as unusual, as the US Supreme Court grants such writs less than one percent of the time.  Nonetheless, the thin chance of a Supreme Court ruling is the very last gasp of hope for the 2014 New Jersey law, through which the state indirectly intended to allow state-licensed gambling facilities to conduct legal sports-betting activity.

Sports betting would automatically be allowed to take place on the 20 online-gambling sites already approved to serve New Jersey residents, should any of these New Jersey legalization attempts succeed.  However, the PASPA legal stranglehold remains intact.  Under that law, in place for over a quarter century, only Nevada is allowed to offer full-scale, single-event sports wagering.  Limited parlay wagering is allowed in three other US states.

The NJTHA / Monmouth Park petition cites two main reasons for the Supreme Court to consider taking up the case:


A. The Third Circuit’s Flouting Of This Court’s Anti-Commandeering Precedents Deprives The NJTHA And The People Of New Jersey Of The Political And Individual Liberties That Federalism Is Designed To Protect.

B. The Third Circuit’s Decision Has Nationwide Significance Because It Casts A Long Shadow Over Numerous State Laws And Regulations Authorizing Daily “Fantasy” Sports Wagering.

From the Christie-led petition, on New Jersey’s behalf, the pleading made to the Supreme Court as to why they should hear the case treads similar but not identical ground.  Three main reasons are listed, with only the anti-commandeering argument duplicated in general from the breeder-led petition:



A. The Third Circuit’s Opinion Departs From This Court’s Anti-Commandeering Precedents

B. The Third Circuit’s Ruling Diminishes The Accountability Of Elected Officials

C. The Third Circuit’s Construction Of PASPA Infringes State Sovereignty By Perpetuating Uncertainty As To How States May Exercise Their Sovereign Rights

The parties who filed suit against the State of New Jersey to stop the 2014 law from taking effect have a month to file responses, which may also be considered by the Supreme Court.  Those parties are the five major US-based sport organizations who have long sought to block any sports-related expansion of gambling in the US — with the notable exception of daily fantasy sports, an activity from which these leagues themselves can manufacture an extra profit.  The five official parties opposing New Jersey’s efforts and seeking to keep PASPA in place are the National Collegiate Athletic Association [NCAA], the National Football League [NFL], Major League Baseball [MLB], the National Basketball Association [NBA], and the National Hockey League [NHL].

Federal officials also support the retention of PASPA and the leagues’ cause, despite rumblings from several states, in addition to New Jersey, that wouldn’t mind seeing the outdated and ineffective PASPA law tossed out.

A decision on whether or not the US Supreme Court will accept the case is not expected for several months.