NJ Appeal Shot Down by Supreme Court

The residents of New Jersey, for the past three years, have told their representatives and federal lawmakers that they support sports betting in their state. New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada all offer online gambling in some form, and the New Jersey proposal would allow for the state to offer legal online and off-line sports betting options to its residents. In the United States gambling online industry, currently just Nevada and Delaware can legally deliver legalized sports gambling. To that end, Governor Chris Christie filed an appeal with the Supreme Court asking for a re-examination of sports gambling. This past Monday, the US Supreme Court judges declined to even examine the dispute. They upheld their 2011 decision, halting any efforts by New Jersey to legalize sports betting at this time. This means that at this time, only legal NJ offshore sports betting sites are an option for residents of the Garden State.  

On the face of things, this appears to be a simple legislative decision by the highest court in the USA. But a closer look at the numbers involved is required. Of the five major sports in the US, there is no more popular sports league than the National Football League. 42% of women in the United States follow the NFL, and 68% of all men. Those numbers apply to both Democrats and Republicans, and in 2013, 9 of the 10 most viewed television programs were NFL football games. And the last three Super Bowls were the most watched television programs in the United States … of all time. Betting on NFL games, accordingly, is a $400 billion US industry, with the vast majority of that action occurring with legally licensed offshore sportsbooks and illegal local bookies.

In spite of those numbers, the Supreme Court still decided to put the New Jersey sports betting issue in its rear window for the time being. Christie argued that the 2011 legislation violates his state’s rights, and that of its residents, who are positively behind the idea of state-based sports wagering. There’s a fine line between when federal powers can step in and intercede in the way a US state is doing business, and when it should let individual states decide their own destiny. Christie’s argument is that a 1992 piece of federal legislation needs to be reconsidered.

In the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a federal appeals court ruled that legal sports betting violated federal law. At that time, legal sports wagering was only allowable in Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon. Oddly, New Jersey was also offered the same exemption, but decided against offering legal sports gambling to its residence. In 2011, voters in the Garden State supported legalized betting on sports events at casinos and racetracks, passing a referendum that would hopefully be the beginning of legalized off and online sports betting in NJ. However, the five largest professional and collegiate sports leagues in the United States, the NFL, NCAA, NHL, MLB and NBA filed a lawsuit asking for federal protection. The judge agreed, and we move ahead to this most recent decision in 2014.

Losing the battle in this last bid to legalize sports betting in New Jersey does not mean that the state is done fighting. New Jersey Democrat Senator Ray Lesniak is behind the bill which the Supreme Court refuses to acknowledge. After the Monday decision, he stated that he has a Plan B for legalized state betting on sporting events that could be in place before the September 8 opening of the New York Giants season. MetLife Stadium in New Jersey is home to both the New York Giants and New York Jets of the NFL. Lesniak contends that New Jersey is within its state rights to legalize sports gambling for its residents, and points to the booming legal sports betting business in Nevada as an example. Currently, New Jersey residents have several viable options which are located outside of the United States, companies which have obtained legal licensing to offer sports gambling options via the Internet to US citizens.