New Jersey filed court papers seeking to dismiss a legal challenge to its sports betting plans, comparing the protests from the country’s five largest athletic leagues to those of a crooked police official in the movie classic “Casablanca.”
“Anyone who has ever bet on a Super Bowl or participated in a March Madness office pool is aware of the enormous and growing $380 billion market for sports betting, yet the leagues have experienced extraordinary success over the last (20) years,” lawyers representing New Jersey wrote in a brief filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Trenton. “The leagues’ claim of injury echoes Captain Renault’s exclamation in ‘Casablanca’ that he was ‘shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!’”
The NCAA, NBA, NFL, Office of the Commissioner of Baseball and the NHL filed the lawsuit last month seeking to block the start of sports wagering in New Jersey.
Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill authorizing the activity earlier this year even though it runs counter to a federal act prohibiting sports betting in all but four states. Those states — Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana — allowed some form of sports wagering prior to the enactment of the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or PASPA, in 1992.
New Jersey, which hired constitutional lawyers from Washington, D.C., to help argue its case, wants the district court to throw out the lawsuit, saying the sports leagues cannot prove wagering on athletic events in New Jersey will harm the league considering that there is $3 billion legally wagered on sporting events in Nevada and $380 billion through illegal and offshore outlets.
“Any incremental additional injury to the leagues arising from the Sports Wagering Law, after all, could come to pass only if the law actually meaningfully increases the prevalence of sports betting on their games,” the lawyers said. “In light of the nearly half-trillion-dollar preexisting market in sports gambling, the leagues’ allegation that they will suffer some additional reputational injury from a relatively minuscule increase in legal, tightly regulated sports gambling in New Jersey is simply not credible.”
The lawyers argue that any scandal that would lead the public to suspect the games are rigged would be as a result of the leagues’ own players and employees, not New Jersey regulators.
“To the extent that the leagues’ standing argument ultimately rests on the proposition that legalizing and regulating sports wagering in New Jersey will increase the temptation for nefarious persons to fix games, shave points, or otherwise improperly influence ‘honest athletic competition,’ such a claim would be even less traceable to the New Jersey officials,” the lawyers said in their brief.
Because the leagues cannot show a concrete and imminent injury that is “fairly traceable” to New Jersey’s sports wagering law, they do not have constitutional standing to file the lawsuit, the state’s lawyers said.
Meanwhile, lawyers for the leagues argued that when PASPA was passed, a clause was included that gave the leagues the right to sue. However, New Jersey argues that federal lawmakers, in passing the legislation, were not authorized to give anyone standing to sue because that decision solely falls on the judicial branch.
“It strikes at the very heart of the U.S. Constitution’s separation of powers,” the state’s lawyers said.
The state’s brief was filed with only a few hours to spare in order to meet a deadline U.S. Magistrate Judge Lois Goodman recently imposed.
The leagues sought a quick decision on the case, citing the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement’s intention to finalize its sports betting regulation by Oct. 1. However, New Jersey has agreed to not issue any licenses before Dec. 1, and then, to give the court and leagues a month’s notice before doing so.
In mediating the dispute, Goodman set out a schedule for the lawyers to follow, which tells them how long they have to take discovery, respond to the request, file opposing motions, identify expert and rebuttal witnesses and resolve other issues.
New Jersey’s lawyers said in documents they expected to appear in court Oct. 1 to formally ask that the league’s lawsuit be dismissed.
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