Tuesday, federal judge Michael Shipp set Oral Argument for November 20, 2014 to address an application for a Preliminary Injunction by the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, and NCAA in the latest litigation over the potential legalization of sports betting in New Jersey. In the underlying lawsuit, the Court will eventually determine whether New Jersey can legally repeal its ban on sports betting and permit private entities to conduct the activity.
New Jersey has been attempting to legalize sports betting for nearly three years. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the highest court to address the issue to date, has determined that New Jersey legalizing sports betting would directly violate the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, but it stated that the federal law only prohibits state-regulated sports betting. Governor Chris Christie accordingly repealed New Jersey’s ban on sports betting two weeks ago to permit private entities to engage in sports betting without state regulation. The sports leagues then quickly applied for a temporary injunction, which Judge Shipp granted last Friday.
The leagues assert that sports betting in New Jersey would harm the integrity of their games. They could not in good faith deny, however, that the league enjoys significantly increased interest, television ratings, and therefore profit due to individuals gambling on sports, whether through fantasy sports, online betting sites based outside of the United States, or illegal bookmakers within the country. The league also fails to acknowledge that sports betting in New Jersey would provide much-needed revenue to the struggling economy in places such as Atlantic City, where casino revenue has sharply decreased in recent years and thousands of employees – many of whom are fans of the very leagues challenging New Jersey’s actions – have been laid off.
If Judge Shipp denies the request for an injunction, which he should, he will effectively force the leagues to see how harmless sports betting in New Jersey would be to their games. Sports gamblers today have no difficulty wagering on sporting events, so why not permit legitimate businesses in New Jersey to profit from the activity?
With the NFL playoffs beginning in January and the NCAA Basketball Tournament occurring in March, a denial of the leagues’ request for a Preliminary Injunction would force a “test period” of sports betting pending the underlying suit during a period that includes two of the most heavily-wagered events in the country. During this period, the leagues would likely learn that the integrity of their games would not suffer, while New Jersey racetracks and casinos would likely generate much-needed income. This would help the individuals these businesses employ maintain their jobs and have more money to spend on leisure activities, which often include paying these very leagues to attend sporting events and purchase memorabilia. It truly would be a win-win for both sides.