A complex and expensive battle between the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the four major professional sports leagues and the state of New Jersey over whether New Jersey’s casinos and racetracks can offer sports betting to customers is playing out in the federal courts. It is difficult to predict how and when this battle will be decided. Although a federal judge recently enjoined New Jersey from implementing sports betting, this is probably not the last word. Based on the sheer dollar amounts involved — potentially hundreds of millions of dollars of annual revenue — it is likely this battle will end in the court of appeals, or perhaps even the U.S. Supreme Court.
But how did we get here? The history of the battle over legalized sports betting in New Jersey begins with the 1976 amendment to the New Jersey Constitution, which authorized the Legislature to enact the Casino Control Act. That amendment authorized “gambling houses and casinos” within Atlantic City, and left to the Legislature the “type and number…of gambling games” that could be conducted in the casinos. Sports betting, however, was never authorized. With the nationwide spread of legalized gambling beginning in the early 1990s, Congress, by statute, severely limited the spread of sports betting. After many skirmishes, whether sports betting will be a reality in New Jersey comes down to whether this 21-year-old federal statute is constitutional.
Originally published in New Jersey Lawyer Magazine on April 10, 2013.
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