AGA calls for federal action to remove sports wagering ban

AGA calls for federal action to remove sports wagering ban

August 10, 2016 10:09 AM
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Congressional action appears necessary if sports betting is to be legalized in Atlantic City casinos and elsewhere across the U.S.

That’s the conclusion of American Gaming Association President Geoff Freeman following this week’s rejection of New Jersey’s effort to get  a court-ordered change in the 1992 act of Congress that banned most forms of sports betting.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling invalidated a 2014  New Jersey law that would have allowed sports betting at casinos and racetracks. The court found New Jersey’s action repealing prohibitions against sports gambling violated the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA)..

Gov. Chris Christie and others supporters of legalized sports betting  began efforts to change the law several years ago as a vehicle to revitalize Atlantic City’s casino business but the effort has been denied by the federal courts at every turn.

This week’s rejection by the full nine-member court can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the court denied a previous appeal, which has the state probably looking to Congress as the most likely source of change.

Freeman said, “Washington has a responsibility to fix a failed law that it created nearly 25 years ago. A federal government prohibition has driven an illegal, and occasionally dangerous, sports betting market of at least $150 billion annually.

New Jersey’s effort has a lengthy legal history. The four major professional sports leagues and the NCAA sued the state in 2012, after New Jersey voters approved sports gambling the previous year. The leagues claimed the expansion of legal sports betting to New Jersey would damage the integrity of their games and lead to the likelihood of  game-fixing.

After the 3rd Circuit rejected the state’s constitutional challenge to PASPA, New Jersey strategists came back with a 2014 law that repealed prohibitions against sports gambling at casinos and racetracks. That tactic – repealing prohibitions instead of approving gambling – was seen as a way to get around the federal law.

But the federal court was not buying that argument.

Other states have been keeping an attentive eye on the progress of this case even preparing legislation that could be quickly rolled out if the 3rd Circuit threw out PASPA.

In the meantime, the leadership of the NBA has accepted the inevitability of legalized sports wagering at some point, the National Hockey League has approved a franchise for Las Vegas and there is an effort in Las Vegas to build a stadium that could become home to the Oakland Raiders.

The NFL also annually schedules games in London and Mexico City, both being locales where sports betting is legal.

Yet in the case off New Jersey’s effort to boost the appeal of Atlantic City casinos with sports wagering, lawyers for leagues continue to lean on tired arguments that legal sports betting would tarnish the image of this or that league and the sport.

“Makes you wonder how lawyers can keep making some of these arguments with a straight face,” one of the lawyers confided.