New Jersey’s hopes to legalize sports betting in the state were shut down by a Third Circuit panel on Tuesday, August 9, 2016. The panel, in a 10-2 decision, upheld a district court ruling that a 2014 law repealing New Jersey’s ban of sports betting violated the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). Additionally, the panel affirmed their 2013 ruling that PASPA is constitutional and does not infringe on state rights. Federal law enacted in 1993 prohibits states from regulating sports betting activity.
New Jersey has long attempted to legalize sports betting in order to boost the state’s struggling horse racing tracks and casinos. Governor Chris Christie, a longtime supporter of bringing Las Vegas-style sports betting to New Jersey, has attempted numerous times to enact it into state law. The Third Circuit’s ruling on Tuesday may very well be a decisive rejection of those efforts. Currently, only Nevada allows bettors to wager on individual games.
Supporters of legalizing sports betting have pointed to the current popularity of online fantasy sports websites, which have partnered with major sports leagues and enjoyed tremendous success. Despite apparent similarities between the two activities, lawmakers have put them in different categories. While fantasy sports have been generally accepted by law as a game of “skill,” sports betting is seen as a game of “luck” and is therefore illegal outside of Nevada. New Jersey Senator Ray Lesniak, a supporter of legalizing sports betting, said the state will apply for a second time to the United States Supreme Court, citing dissenting opinions by members of the Third Circuit panel.