On Wednesday a court of twelve judges heard the case of whether New Jersey’s plan to introduce sportsbooks to its casinos and racetracks is legal under federal law.
The potential market in the USA is huge, as evidenced by the case of Nevada. Sports betting is legal there and $4.2bn (£2.9bn) was taken in wagering last year. Unsurprisingly many states are eager to implement sports betting as a means of creating a surge in revenue but the PASPA (or Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) has been a troublesome barrier. Established in 1992 the PASPA prohibits 46 states from licensing, sponsoring or authorizing sports betting.
But it looks as if change may be coming. Last week Pennsylvania passed a resolution which requested that Congress repeal PASPA, and should it do do the repercussions could be massive.
Lawyer Theodore B. Olson is representing New Jersey in court, and must convince seven of the twelve judges for the motion to be passed. The four major sports leagues and the NCAA are represented by Paul Clement. Whilst not all those involved in the organisation of major sports leagues are opposed to sports betting, indeed the NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has urged for the ban to be lifted, there is a concern that it would lead to the throwing of matches.
This longstanding legal battle began in 2012. It continues today since last year New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was granted an en banc hearing by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. These type of hearings, which are when all or most of the judges on an appeals court rehear an earlier decision by three of its judges, are rarely granted.
Should it end six apiece, sports betting will not be legalised. Daniel Wallach, a lawyer at Becker & Poliakoff, said of his expectations: “Look for either an 8-4 or 7-5 victory in favor of the leagues. I don’t expect New Jersey to raise the white flag if it loses. The state is nothing if not persistent.”
The verdict is still some time off however, and the judges will pass a verdict within six months. The entirety of the US should keep a close eye on these proceedings, including the likes of DraftKings and FanDuel as it’s sure to have an impact in the ongoing legal battles around daily fantasy sports too. Should New Jersey triumph against the odds it’s almost inevitable that more states will make moves toward the legalisation of sports betting.
Dependent on the decisions of twelve judges in the coming months, a huge precedent could be set.