On Tuesday, the NCAA, NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey seeking declaratory and injunctive relief challenging the State of New Jersey’s “plan to sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license and authorize gambling on amateur and professional sports.” The lawsuit names New Jersey Governor Christopher Christie, the state’s Director of Gaming Endorsement and the Executive Director of the New Jersey Racing Commission as defendants.
On January 17, 2012, Governor Christie signed into law N.J.S.A. 5:12A-1, which according to the lawsuit, “purport[ed] to permit wagering at casinos and racetracks on the results of certain collegiate and professional sports or athletic events.” According to the lawsuit, the act signed into law by Governor Christie violates federal law. In particular, the plaintiffs assert that allowing gambling on amateur and professional sports in New Jersey violates the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, and contravenes the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution. The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act generally outlaws sports betting, save for certain exceptions, which the plaintiffs argue do not apply to New Jersey’s law. Notably, those exceptions are: that New Jersey conducted sports gambling activity prior to the law’s enaction in 1992, New Jersey authorized sports betting in a one-year period following the law’s 1992 enaction or the gambling relates to pari-mutuel animal racing and jai alai games.
The plaintiffs’ lawsuit comes just three weeks before the public comment period for comments on proposed regulations concerning the licensure and operation of sports gambling in New Jersey expires. The timing is notable, because according to the lawsuit, once the regulations are in place, New Jersey casinos and racetracks will be able to allow their patrons to gamble on sporting events.
Ultimately, the plaintiffs are seeking a declaration that New Jersey’s sports gambling law and its regulations violate Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in that the New Jersey law allows sports gambling in contradiction to the federal law. Additionally, the plaintiffs seek an injunction preventing the implementation of New Jersey’s sports gambling law and regulations. The plaintiffs are also seeking costs, attorney’s fees and other relief as the court finds appropriate.
The defendants will now have to file an answer in federal court responding to the allegations in the complaint. Given the nature of this matter, one can expect that it will not be settled out of court. Rather, those planning on placing bets in New Jersey during the football season will more than likely have to hold onto their money, as the legal process will likely drag out to determine whether New Jersey’s sports betting initiative violates federal law.