NEWARK, N.J. – A federal appeals court on Tuesday dealt another defeat to New Jersey’s yearslong attempt to legalize sports betting, setting aside the state’s challenge to a federal betting ban.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling invalidated a law passed by New Jersey in 2014 that would have allowed sports betting at casinos and racetracks. The court found New Jersey’s law repealing prohibitions against sports gambling violated the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which forbids state-authorized sports gambling.
“Because PASPA, by its terms, prohibits states from authorizing by law sports gambling, and because the 2014 law does exactly that, the 2014 law violates federal law,” the court wrote.
Currently, only Nevada offers legal sports betting on individual games. Delaware offers multigame parlay betting in which players must pick several games correctly to win. Both were given exemptions when PASPA was passed.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and supporters in the state Legislature have sought to legalize sports gambling to help prop up the struggling casino and horse racing industries. It’s estimated up to hundreds of billions of dollars are bet illegally on sports every year in the U.S.
Monmouth Park, in Oceanport on New Jersey’s coast, is the only venue currently set up to offer sports gambling, if it were legalized.
The dispute has a lengthy legal history. New Jersey voters approved legal sports gambling in 2011, but the four major professional sports leagues and the NCAA sued the state the following year. The leagues claimed the expansion of betting to New Jersey would damage the integrity of their games and lead to more game-fixing.
Sports betting supporters have called the leagues’ stance hypocritical, saying the leagues condone and profit from sports fantasy leagues in which participants assemble rosters of players from different teams and compete against others.
After the 3rd Circuit rejected the state’s constitutional challenge to PASPA, Christie signed a bill into law in the fall of 2014 that repealed prohibitions against sports gambling at casinos and racetracks. That tactic — repealing prohibitions instead of approving gambling — was seen as a way to get around the federal law.
Though each court ruling has gone against the state, there have been dissents in two previous three-judge rulings at the 3rd Circuit.
One of the judges who dissented in an earlier ruling also wrote a dissent Tuesday. Judge Julio Fuentes wrote that New Jersey’s repeal meant it wasn’t actually authorizing sports gambling.
“I do not see how a partial repeal of prohibitions is tantamount to authorizing by law a sports wagering scheme in violation of PASPA,” Fuentes wrote.
Tuesday’s ruling came after a hearing by the full 3rd Circuit.
The state can appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court, which has already declined to hear the case once before.
A message left with Christie’s office wasn’t returned. Paul Loriquet, a spokesman for the state attorney general’s office, said the office was “reviewing the opinion and considering our options.”
The NBA, whose commissioner, Adam Silver, has advocated changing the federal law to allow legal sports gambling, on Tuesday said the ruling bolstered that argument.
“We remain supportive of a federal legislative framework that would protect the integrity of the game and allow those who bet on sports to do so in a legal and safe manner,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said.
Through a spokesman, the NFL declined to comment.
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