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New Jersey’s Betting Law Strikes Out
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The Third Circuit has once against truck down New Jersey’s sports betting law, stating it does not comply with relevant federal law.

Summary: The Third Circuit has once against truck down New Jersey’s sports betting law, stating it does not comply with relevant federal law.

New Jersey’s sports betting law has been struck down yet again by the Third Circuit. According to the court, the state’s attempt to legalize the betting by repealing the ban was still a violation of federal law, reports. According to the New York Times, only a handful of states allow legal gambling on professional and college sports, predominately Nevada.


Specifically, the majority ruled that the law violated the 1992 federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. The Act bans states from allowing sports betting.

Senior Judge Marjorie O. Rendell said that the court noted New Jersey’s “salutary” purpose in attempting to legalize betting to resuscitate its “troubled” racetrack and casino industries. She noted that PASPA has “clearly stymied” New Jersey’s goal of reviving these industries.

Rendell said, “While PASPA’s provisions and its reach are controversial and, some might say, unwise, ‘we are not asked to judge the wisdom of PASPA’ and ‘it is not our place to usurp Congress’ role simply because PASPA may have become an unpopular law.’”

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Some say Newark, New Jersey is the worst place to start a business.

In 2012, New Jersey first attempted to legalize sports betting. Its attempts were thwarted by the Third Circuit at that time as well. The court found that the law authorized betting, which was in contradiction to the federal law. Therefore, it had to be struck down. Theodore Olson of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher argued that the law, which repealed some of the existing prohibitions on sports betting met the court’s concerns, because it was not an authorization by law. Specifically, the state argued that having no law in place was not the same as a law that authorizes an activity.



The National Hockey League, National Football League, National Basketball League, Major League Baseball, and the NCAA argued that the new law rubber-stamped sports betting. Paul Clement, an attorney with Bancroft, argued that the 2014 law was “a targeted partial appeal to allow [New Jersey] to channel all sports betting to [its] favorite venues.”



Judge Julio M. Fuentes, who authored the opinion that struck down the 2012 law, dissented, arguing that he could not see how the 2014 law was equivalent to the “authorizing by law” requirement of PASPA.

The majority opinion noted that the 2014 law repealed bans on sports betting only for racetracks and casinos. It would still be an illegal activity elsewhere.

Rendell said, “Absent the 2014 law, New Jersey’s myriad laws prohibiting sports gambling would apply to the casinos and racetracks. Thus, the 2014 law provides the authorization for conduct that is otherwise clearly and completely legally prohibited.”

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Rendell added that the 2014 law was “selectively dictating” where betting could take place. During oral arguments, she focused on the definition of “authorization,” pondering whether it meant “empower,” “permit,” “allow,” or another meaning. She cited Black’s Law Dictionary in the majority opinion, stating that “authorize” means to “empower; to give a right or authority to act.”

Rendell continued, “The 2014 law allows casinos and racetracks and their patrons to engage, under enumerated circumstances, in conduct that other businesses and their patrons cannot do. That selectiveness constitutes specific permission and empowerment.”

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Rendell added that if the 2014 law repealed all prohibitions on sports betting, the court would be “hard-pressed” to find an authorization in violation of PASPA. She explained, “While artfully couched in terms of a repealer, the 2014 law essentially provides that, notwithstanding any other prohibition by law, casinos and racetracks shall hereafter be permitted to have sports gambling. This is not a repeal; it is an authorization.”

In the dissent, Fuentes examined the definition of “repeal,” explaining that repealed statutes are usually treated as though they were never enacted. Partially repealed statutes, he continued, are treated as though only the remaining portions were ever enacted. Fuentes said that, after the repeal, it was as though New Jersey never prohibited betting in racetracks or casinos.

Last year, two New Jersey men sued the lottery commission.

Fuentes said, “Therefore, with respect to those areas, there are no laws governing sports wagering and the right to engage in such conduct does not come from the state. Rather, the right to do that which is not prohibited stems from the inherent rights of the people.”

According to ESPN, Senator Ray Lesniak plans to appeal the decision to the entire Third Circuit.


Photo credit:, (Olson), NY Post (Clement)



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