Third Circuit Rejects New Jersey's Effort to Sanction Sports Wagering

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Tony Soprano’s business is safe, for now — the Third Circuit recently invalidated New Jersey’s attempt to legalize sports wagering because it violated a federal law that prohibits most states from licensing such activities. In NCAA v. Christie, the Court rebuffed New Jersey’s challenge to the constitutionality of the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), holding that the act is a valid exercise of Congress’ commerce powers. No. 13-1713, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 19167 (3d Cir. Sept. 17, 2013).

In 1992, Congress passed PASPA. That statute prohibits states and private persons from sponsoring amateur and professional sports wagering schemes. 28 U.S.C. § 3701, et seq. (1992). The expressed purpose of the act was to stop the spread of state sponsored sports wagering. The law contained a grandfather clause that permitted Nevada to continue to license sports wagering and gave New Jersey the option to permit sports wagering in Atlantic City, had it chosen to do so, within one year of PASPA’s enactment. The New Jersey Legislature declined to exercise this option. The law also allowed states to continue to permit sports wagering to the extent they allowed it when PASPA was passed. See, e.g., Office of the Comm’r of Baseball v. Markell, 579 F.3d 293 (3d Cir. 2009). For instance, PASPA prohibits Delaware from authorizing single-game betting, but allows the state to sanction multi-game parlay wagers because the state allowed such wagers at the time Congress passed PASPA.

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