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DoJ Joins Sports Betting Lawsuit

Plans in New Jersey to regulate the state’s sports betting market took a hit yesterday after the US Department of Justice joined a lawsuit filed by sports leagues challenging pending regulation.

According to the filing, the DoJ is joining the lawsuit “for the purpose of defending the constitutional challenges to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (Paspa),” which permits wagering on sports in only four states: Nevada, which hosts legal sports betting in Las Vegas, and Montana, Oregon and Delaware, which are allowed to offer multi-game parlay betting under the statute.

Proposals to legalize New Jersey’s sports betting market have attracted fierce criticism from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and country’s major sporting bodies. The leagues and the NCAA filed a lawsuit in August, 2012, arguing that pending legislation in the Garden State violates federal law and “threatens the integrity” of the games.

Last month a federal judge declined New Jersey’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, despite the law usurping the rights of state legislatures and unfairly grandfathering in states where sports betting was legal when PASPA was signed into law in 1992.

The leagues are dismissing New Jersey’s constitutional challenge as “specious” and are arguing that the commerce clause doesn’t require uniformity in its application to different states.

Joe Brennan Jr, director at the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association (iMEGA), expressed frustration over the DoJ’s intervention.

“While the decision by the US Department of Justice is disappointing, it has little bearing on the heart of the matter – that this law preventing New Jersey from regulating sports betting is unconstitutional. DOJ’s presence will make it more interesting, but won’t make a difference,” Brennan said in a press release.

“New Jersey only wants to do what Nevada and Delaware are free to do – regulate and tax sports betting – to save Atlantic City’s casinos and the state’s race tracks. It is confusing why the Obama administration would oppose a law approved in New Jersey by a 2-to-1 margin in a reliable blue state,” he added.

Lawyers for the Department of Justice have requested until the end of next week to file responses to the state’s constitutional challenges. Oral arguments in the case—National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Christie, 12-4947, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey (Trenton)—are scheduled for February 14.


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