Thursday, September 10, 2015

A Good Bet for New Jersey?

On August 25, 2015, a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals denied New Jersey’s proposed repeal of its sports betting prohibition even though, as New Jersey proposed, a lift of the ban would be limited to casinos and racetracks. The Court asserted that New Jersey’s proposal was a clear violation of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), legislation passed to prevent corruption of athletes and coaches. PASPA prohibits states from authorizing sports gambling, precisely what the New Jersey law permits. New Jersey’s primary interest in lifting the prohibition is, of course, money. Sports betting, New Jersey hoped, would revitalize struggling Atlantic City casinos.

A win for New Jersey not only would have brought in tremendous money, but also would have opened the floodgates for other states to follow suit. But since the Court ruled against the state, it is reasonable to expect that no other state has a chance to make its own case. However, strangely, the Court essentially outlined exactly how other states should proceed in challenging PASPA in its decision. “‘We agree that, had [New Jersey’s] 2014 Law repealed all prohibition on sports gambling,”—i.e. repealed not just the bans on casinos and racetracks—“‘we would be hard-pressed…to find an ‘authorizing by law’ in violation of PASPA.’” Thus, any state that wishes to repeal its own ban on sports betting can do so in the manner the Court has recommended. It is unclear why the Court would include a blatant loophole, especially when such a comment was unnecessary to explain their rejection of New Jersey’s proposition. 

The sports world is, in large part (if not virtually completely), controlled by money. Sports betting is inextricably linked with tremendous money. As such, we may see the day when the guarantee of the money that comes with sports betting outweighs the possibility of corrupt athletes and coaches. Particularly if other major sports leagues commissioners join NBA’s Adam Silver in his support for nationwide legal sports betting, a complete overhaul of sports betting, and the nature of sports in general, may be closer than imagined despite this recent ruling.  

- Samantha Albanese


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