New Jersey, future of American sports betting on the ropes with latest legal setback

New Jersey, the greatest hope for the expansion of legal sports betting in the U.S., is on the ropes.

The next loss in the state’s legal battle against the NCAA, professional sports leagues and Dept. of Justice will be its last. And that likely would mean another American generation will not be allowed to legally bet $10 on the Super Bowl outside of Nevada.

It took the Third Circuit Court of Appeals just two weeks to deny New Jersey’s request for a rehearing. “That’s lightning speed,” said Ryan Rodenberg, an assistant sports law analytics professor at Florida State University, who has followed the case closely.

In mid-September, the Third Circuit ruled in favor of the sports leagues and DOJ, confirming an earlier ruling from a district judge. New Jersey filed its request for the case to be re-heard on Nov. 1. Two weeks later, the Third Circuit said “no thanks.”

The prompt denial is an indication of the court’s confidence in its initial ruling to uphold the constitutionality of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. PASPA prohibits sports betting in all but four states, Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana. New Jersey believes that is a violation of states’ rights. But no legal body has ruled in its favor during the case that began last August, when the NCAA, NFL and other major professional sports leagues sued New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. The governor’s legal team, featuring former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson, has lost every step of the way.

“It’s disappointing,” New Jersey Sen. Ray Lesniak said in an email about the latest setback. “We’re running out of options, but the fat lady hasn’t sung yet … on to the Supreme Court.”

New Jersey has until approximately mid-February to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its case. The sports leagues will then be allowed to file a response, likely pointing out why the Supreme Court shouldn’t bother hearing the case. The Supreme Court accepts less than one percent of the cases it is presented, according to Rodenberg.

Only four of the nine Supreme Court judges need to choose the case in order for it to be selected. If the Supreme Court does take the case, it likely would not be heard until next fall at the earliest. New Jersey would again be the underdog.

A negative decision would slam the door on the state’s efforts to re-energize its sagging gaming industry with Las Vegas-style sports betting. It also would cement the legal standing of PASPA and squash any foreseeable hopes of a judicial avenue to allow other states to reap the tax revenue generated from sports betting.

California and Minnesota introduced pro-sports betting legislation in 2012, but both states said they would only proceed if New Jersey was to win its case. Neither California’s nor Minnesota’s plans made it very far, anyway. That leaves the congressional route as the only remaining option for sports betting expansion.

Two New Jersey congressmen, Frank LoBiondo and Frank Pallone, have authored federal bills that would allow states the option to offer sports betting. But Congress has shown little interest. It’s going to take some fresh blood, some new political figures who have come up in a society that is way more accepting of gambling than its current leaders.

Never fear, though, sports betting in the U.S. will continue. Billions of dollars will be wagered, most of it illegally and untaxed.