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An Update On New Jersey’s Fight To Legalize Sports Betting

Gamblers in New Jersey take note – November 8, 2011 may become a recognized holiday for you.  On that day, New Jersey voters passed a state constitutional amendment to allow sports betting at casinos and racetracks.  The measure was passed 64% to 36%.  A New Jersey Senate state government and wagering committee has already cleared enacting legislation.  New Jersey governor Chris Christie has stated that he will not have any problems signing the bill into law.

What is still standing in the way?  Certainly the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) and perhaps the NFL and its war-chest.  PASPA is a federal law, which completely denies forty-six states (including New Jersey) from adopting any type of state-sponsored sports betting scheme.  PASPA exempted four states (Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana), allowing those states to continue to operate the state-sponsored sports betting schemes that had been in place prior to PASPA’s adoption.

In 2010, I wrote an article titled, The Plight of PASPA: It’s Time to Pull the Plug on the Prohibition and published in the Gaming Law Review and Economics, which argues that PASPA’s original purpose is outdated and that the Act is in violation of the Tenth Amendment and Commerce Clause within the United States Constitution.

Will the constitutional amendment passed by the constituents of New Jersey and cleared by a New Jersey Senate committee be nothing more than a symbolic measure?  Perhaps the state’s actions will add further proof that PASPA violates the Tenth Amendment.  It shows that sports betting is not only something requested by New Jersey’s state government, but that the state’s constituents are also in favor of legalized sports betting.  Most importantly, it should be enough to withstand a claim that there is lack of standing and/or failure to state a claim.  A recent lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of PASPA was dismissed for those specific reasons.  The judge’s Order stated, “the proper party to bring such a claim would be New Jersey’s attorney general.”  New Jersey’s current attorney general is Paula T. Dow.