On Tuesday, the United States Supreme Court dashed the dreams of sports bettors in the Northeast with two words – certiorari denied.
Despite the major players involved and billions of dollars at stake in New Jersey’s pursuit to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), the Supreme Court ultimately refused to hear the case. Granted, the Supreme Court hears only about one percent of cases appealed to it. But come on, we got parlays to hit.
By denying certiorari, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals’ 2-1 decision to uphold PASPA will stand. This means no sports betting for any states other than Nevada and to some extent, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana.
However, federal law and Supreme Court be damned, the Garden State is pushing forward with its desire to legalize sports betting — and it plans to do so by stealing the marijuana legalization playbook.
That’s right, New Jersey politicians are following Colorado and Washington’s lead in daring the federal government to come after them.
As the Star-Ledger reported, State Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), who has led the sports betting legalization effort, introduced a bill this week to repeal old state laws prohibiting sports betting at casinos and horse tracks and allowing private companies to have sports wagering operations without state regulation thereby holding off federal intervention
Lesniak said he hopes to pass the bill soon so Monmouth Park in Oceanport can begin accepting bets by September, in time for the start of the NFL season.
“I expect that the U.S. Justice Department will refrain from intervening, as they have with Colorado and Washington when those states legalized marijuana,” he said. “I plan on placing my first bet at Monmouth Racetrack on Sept. 8 for the Giants to beat the spread against the Lions on ‘Monday Night Football.’”
In legal briefs, the Department of Justice said federal law “does not even obligate New Jersey to leave in place the state-law prohibitions against sports gambling that it had chosen to adopt prior to PASPA’s enactment. To the contrary, New Jersey is free to repeal those prohibitions in whole or in part.”
Thus, Lesniak said his new bill would repeal state laws prohibiting sports betting that went into effect before the federal law did.
“They invited us to do this,” Lesniak said. “They said, ‘We’re not interfering with state’s rights. Go right ahead.’ It’s a bizarre argument.”
Although Sen. Lesniak’s plan sounds crazy at first, it has worked for Colorado and Washington. Those states defied the feds over recreational marijuana use, even though federal law still lists pot as a dangerous narcotic alongside heroin and cocaine.
With acceptance of sports betting at the same level or even higher than acceptance of marijuana use, New Jersey has a decent shot at achieving their sports betting goals. If some states can flaunt drugs in the face of a federal ban, why can’t New Jersey have sports betting? Additionally, any fears that legalized sports betting will somehow taint sporting events is a completely disingenuous argument. Nevada takes in hundreds of millions of dollars each year and billions more are bet illegally, yet somehow the games go on while the NCAA and professional sports leagues continue to make more money than the federal government itself.
No matter how you feel about gambling, you have to applaud the creativity and risk-taking in Sen. Lesniak’s plan. The next year could prove quite eventful in determining federal vs. state rights in the future.