NJ Judge Rules In Favor of NFL Hypocrisy

By Larry Josephson, a freelance writer who lives in Norton, Mass. He can be reached at newenglandhoops@yahoo.com.

Gamblers can bet on the Detroit Lions this Sunday in London, but they better not dare do so in New Jersey.

Apparently two plus two does indeed equal three.

At least in New Jersey Federal Court, where U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp granted a temporary restraining order on Friday preventing race tracks and casinos from accepting wagers on professional and college games at the request of the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, and NCAA. (Notably, Judge Shipp is the brother of former college/NFL player Marcel Shipp. Marcel Shipp is now an assistant coach at the University of Massachusetts.)

The ruling was yet another punch in the gut for backers of legal sports wagering, and narrows the margin for error as the state moves forward with its efforts to battle federal law preventing sports betting.

Dennis Drazin, a legal adviser for Monmouth Park, which had hoped to take bets as early at this Sunday, vowed to fight on despite the injunction: “We have to step back and evaluate what we’ll do next, but certainly we will not be taking bets this weekend.”

Awkward metaphor, but we get the point. More on that in a bit, but first a few thoughts on Judge Shipp’s faulty reasoning.

Shipp said that the leagues (NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and NCAA) had proven in court that New Jersey’s legal maneuvering violated the 1992 U.S. Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, and that betting could lead to “irreparable harm” because of gambling’s negative public perception.

Judge Shipp

Shipp, however, said exactly zilch about why there appears to be no irreparable harm from gambling in Nevada or in limited forms in three other states, or why the NFL in particular, feels the need to pontificate about gambling in New Jersey but appears just fine with it when it sends teams to play in England every season. In fact, it was the NFL and not the Brits themselves who first proposed games across the pond. William Hill, one of the world’s largest bookmakers, will be accepting bets down the street from the Lions v. Falcons game this Sunday in London. Yet Roger Goodell does not want William Hill taking bets at Monmouth Park, because, of course that would ruin the integrity of the game.

Since Shipp refused to hear oral arguments regarding the leagues’ demand for the injunction, we can only guess about why he believes that irreparable harm will be done if gambling is allowed in New Jersey when no obvious harm has been done in Nevada. That will surely be one of the points that NJ attorneys will make when the inevitable appeal is filed and heard.

Perhaps Shipp is throwing a bone to the leagues while he gives everyone time to put their arguments together. The law was signed by Gov. Chris Christie just a week ago, and the request for an injunction was filed only on Monday.

It is of “paramount importance,” claimed Shipp, that the status quo remains in place until he considers the case more fully. The leagues must post a $1.7 million bond during the litigation, which for the NFL is lunch at the 21 Club on West 52nd.

New Jersey, meanwhile, is hardly throwing in the towel.

“This is a temporary order while the core issues surrounding sports wagering in New Jersey are fully considered by the court,” said Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak. “We continue to have full confidence in the strength and appropriateness of our position as we move forward in the litigation.”

All over New York wise guys who take bets are raising a toast to a New Jersey judge who they probably had never heard of until a week ago.

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