Professional and collegiate sports associations are fighting New Jersey’s plan to bring sports betting to Atlantic City casinos and racetracks.
Last month, the National Collegiate Athletic Association and four major professional sports leagues filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop the state from proceeding with a sports betting initiative at Atlantic City’s 12 casinos and at state racetracks. The suit, filed by the NCAA, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League, is the latest salvo in a battle that has been waging for the past several years.
In November 2011, New Jersey voters unanimously passed a state referendum that would allow sports wagering. State officials quickly moved on the prospect, drafting a sports betting bill that was passed by the state legislature and signed into law in January. Eager to implement the plan, Governor Chris Christie’s administration drafted regulations that were approved by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. In an act of defiance to the federal ban on sports wagering—which prevents betting on athletic events in all but four states—the governor vowed he would see the plan become a reality by October or November, and dared the government to prevent it.
“If somebody wants to stop us, they have to take action to try and stop us,” Christie said in June. “That is going to be their burden to try and prevent it, and that’s why we are doing it the way we are doing it. May we have to go through some litigation to get there? Probably, but I think we’ll be successful.”
A $1 billion sports betting industry already exists, according to experts, with much of that revenue going to illegal bookmakers. Only Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana have legal sports wagering—with Nevada being the only state with a true sports book that allows wagering on pro and collegiate athletic events. Those four states were the only ones to approve sports betting before the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) went into effect.
It is that act that needs to be overturned or repealed for New Jersey to be successful. Professional sports leagues have been adamant in their support of PASPA. In their lawsuit the associations spell out their objections.
“Gambling on amateur and professional sports threatens the integrity of those sports and is fundamentally at odds with the principle—essential to the success of plaintiffs—that the outcomes of collegiate and professional athletic contests must be determined, and must be perceived by the public as being determined, solely on the basis of honest athletic competition,” the lawsuit states.