New Jersey’s efforts to bring legal sports betting to its horse tracks and Atlantic City casinos suffered another significant — and potentially fatal — setback on Tuesday when a federal appeals court upheld a previous ruling invalidating a challenge to a federal law that limits such gambling to four states.
Following a rare hearing in February before a 12-judge panel from the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the judges ruled 10-2 in favor of five sports organizations, including the NFL and the NCAA. The leagues had argued that a 2014 state law ran afoul of the 1992 federal law, which prevents New Jersey and 45 other states from authorizing or licensing wagering on sporting events.
The ruling offered supporters of legal sports wagering in New Jersey little in the way of guidance about how the state law — two versions of which have now been struck down on appeal — might be revised so it could be deemed to be in accord with Congress. The court did, however, reiterate its stance that, while the latest iteration of the state law was illegal, that “does not preclude the possibility that other options might pass muster.”
Judge Marjorie Rendell wrote in the majority opinion that the court “need not … articulate a line” that must not be crossed to avoid legal scrutiny, while adding that “it is sufficient to conclude that the 2014 law overstepped it.”
“This court once again has punted on line-drawing,” said Daniel Wallach, a Florida-based sports law attorney who has followed the case for years. “The court said that it does not foreclose the possibility that a sports betting law might pass muster, but it gave absolutely no guidance to New Jersey legislators on how to thread that needle.”
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