Last week, it was renewed enthusiasm for intrastate Internet gambling. On Monday, it was legislative action on sports wagering in Atlantic City casinos.
But there’s a huge difference in the prospects for each.
Jersey’s race to Internet gambling, specifically online poker, is a sprint. With the Department of Justice’s reversal of its position on Internet gambling in December, online poker will happen fast — maybe even by the end of the year if Jersey lawmakers and gaming regulators are as resourceful as their Nevada counterparts have been proactive.
But sports wagering in A.C. casinos – that one is going to be a marathon.
State Sen. Raymond Lesniak is making Joe Namath-like pronouncements guaranteeing “victory in the federal courts for New Jersey” in a lawsuit to overturn federal law on sports wagering. But no one should be deluded in thinking such a victory is going to be easy.
Nor should anyone anticipate, as Lesniak told the Associated Press, that “this time next year our residents won’t have to fly to Las Vegas or visit their local bookie to bet on the Giants, Jets or Eagles to win the Super Bowl. They will be able to go to an Atlantic City casino, Monmouth Racetrack or The Meadowlands.”
For starters, there is no end-run around the law in question, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which was championed by, of all people, a U.S. Senator from New Jersey, Bill Bradley.
As the state of Delaware found out when it tried unsuccessfully to use the leverage it thought it had in expanding its own sports wagering a few years ago, the federal courts are interpreting the Bradley Law very narrowly.
So, New Jersey, fortified by a recent voter referendum supporting sport wagering, Monday’s passage of a sports wagering bill in the legislature and Gov. Chris Christie’s anticipated signature on that bill, is ready to head to the federal courts armed with the light saber of the 10th Amendment.
Jersey’s anticipated argument will be that intrastate sports wagering is a state prerogative that the Bradley Law unconstitutionally usurps.
Folks, this is going to be a good one. In part because the NFL, other professional sports leagues and the NCAA have a history of throwing their considerable muscle behind anti-sports wagering efforts, as if the federal attorneys who will be arguing on behalf of the Bradley Law needed any help.
In the end, New Jersey’s efforts to wipe out the 20-year-old Bradley Law may be successful. But success will not come quickly.
Whichever side loses at the lower court levels will certainly appeal since there is so much at stake. And this issue could actually make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court because the implications are far-reaching. If Jersey can have sports wagering, that means any state can follow suit. The logical end of that road is national sports betting.
How do you think that plays at NFL headquarters on Park Avenue?
We like Ray Lesniak’s bravado, but there’s only one thing you can guarantee about a sports wagering court fight:
This one is going into overtime.
- By Bill Ordine
- Editor, PhillyGambles.com