Today, the United States Supreme Court denied New Jersey’s petition for a writ of certiorari to hear an appeal from lower court decisions that invalidated its sports wagering law. This ends a three year fight to bring sports betting to New Jersey’s casinos and racetracks, but NJ State Senator Raymond Lesniak, who has spearheaded efforts to bring sports betting to the state has vowed to continue on.
Last September, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in a 2-1 vote with a strong dissenting opinion, affirmed the decision of the district court striking down the state’s sports wagering law as conflicting with the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (“PASPA”). In February of this year, the state of New Jersey filed a petition for a writ of certiorari asking the Supreme Court to hear the case, which today the Court denied.
The case has far reaching implications, well beyond the future of legalized state sponsored sports betting in the United States, but the Court decided the time was not right to hear the case. In the Supreme Court, the states of West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming filed an amici curiae brief in support of New Jersey’s petition because of the belief that the Third Circuit decision “raises serious federalism concerns” by forcing states to implement federal policy. The states of Georgia, Kansas, Virginia, and West Virginia filed a similar amici brief in the Third Circuit.
This case raised numerous interesting constitutional issues regarding federalism and the federal government’s ability to dictate state policy, something that the Supreme Court has considered recently in other cases. Last June, in a Voting Rights Act (“VRA”) case, the Supreme Court struck down a provision of the VRA that provided a formula for determining which states are subject to the provisions of the VRA, as unconstitutional. The dissenting opinion in that case specifically recognized PASPA as a statute that treats states disparately and that its validity may now be in question under the equal sovereignty principles that the Court outlined in its opinion.
This is a temporary setback in the fight to bring legalized state sponsored sports betting to states other than Nevada, but the fight will continue. Senator Ray Lesniak has said that he will introduce legislation quickly with the goal of offering sports betting in the state by the start of the NFL season. Although unsuccessful thus far, Congress may also step in to author legislation to amend or eliminate PASPA.