A judge has blocked sports betting in New Jersey, disappointing Garden State officials who had hoped to give a boost to New Jersey casinos and racetracks and capitalize on interest in the 2014 Super Bowl in MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.
U.S. Judge Michael Shipp of the District of New Jersey, in an opinion issued late Thursday in Trenton, sided with four professional sports leagues and the National Collegiate Athletic Association in enjoining the state from offering sports betting, something that a majority of New Jerseyans apparently want, as indicated by results of the 2011 election (see Main Justice’s report).
“After careful consideration, the Court has determined that Congress acted within its powers and the statute in question does not violate the United States Constitution,” Shipp wrote.
The judge’s ruling voids, at least for now, a bill signed by Gov. Chris Christie last year that would have allowed sports betting. If the state chooses to do so, it can appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia.
Sen. Raymond Lesniak, a Democrat from Union County, lamented that the ruling “virtually guarantees there won’t be sports betting in New Jersey when the state hosts the Super Bowl next year,” according to an account on the NJBiz website. “There will be another Super Bowl after next year’s, and I want to keep fighting for this,” Lesniak said.
While the ruling was disappointing to some New Jerseyans, its rationale was not surprising. The judge said that it’s up to Congress to change the law banning sports betting in all but four states — Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana — if it chooses to do so. Those four states managed to get themselves grandfathered out of the 1992 law that has frustrated New Jersey officials who see a windfall from sports betting.
The NCAA, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball, along with the U.S. government, argued that the measure would undermine the integrity of professional sports. New Jersey argued, to no avail, that the federal law was unconstitutional.
Correction: Earlier versions of this article stated erroneously that the federal law was enacted in 1902.