With the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday having struck down a law that bans sports betting and gambling, New Jersey’s gaming and tourism industry is already brainstorming on how to cash in on the sudden market shift.
Former Gov. Chris Christie, who for years fought to expand gambling at Monmouth Park, tweeted: “A great day for the rights of states and their people to make their own decisions. New Jersey citizens wanted sports gambling and the federal Gov’t had no right to tell them no. The Supreme Court agrees with us today. I am proud to have fought for the rights of the people of NJ.”
Illegal betting has been widespread across the U.S. since the passage of legislation called the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which was designed with the intent of preserving the integrity of sporting events. PASPA, also known as the “Bradley Act,” is named for its author, former New Jersey senator and New York Knicks star Bill Bradley.
In anticipation of Monday’s ruling, six legislators in New Jersey’s General Assembly drafted a bill to legalize sports betting and set the Division of Gaming Enforcement as the state’s regulator of the newly legalized industry.
The bill, titled A3911, was directed to the Assembly Gaming, Tourism and the Arts Committee. Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-19th District, indicated that he was in touch with Gov. Phil Murphy and Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-3rd District, about how to initiate and regulate sports-gaming in the state.
— Gov. Phil Murphy
Coughlin is the point person on scheduling legislation for vote on the main floor of the General Assembly, while Sweeney plays that same role for the State Senate. Murphy would then have to sign a bill were it to land on his desk.
Both Murphy and Sweeney indicated in respective statements they would support a measure to roll out and regulate sports betting.
“I am thrilled to see the Supreme Court finally side with New Jersey and strike down the arbitrary ban on sports betting imposed by Congress decades ago,” Murphy said. “New Jersey has long been the lead advocate in fighting this inherently unequal law, and today’s ruling will finally allow for authorized facilities in New Jersey to take the same bets that are legal in other states in our country.”
Tweeted Sweeney: “We can now seize the opportunity with a new sector of gaming that will help create jobs, generate economic growth and be an important boost to the casino industry and horse racing.
“We fought for more than 7 years on this case, overcoming the hurdles of the legal process & standing up against formidable opponents. The fact that we met those challenges & won approval of the highest court in the US is a byproduct of our determination & legitimacy of our case.”
The vote to declare PASPA unconstitutional was 6-3. Justice Samuel Alito delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch joined. Breyer filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part. Full dissenters included Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor. Breyer wrote in explaining his split vote that he has misgivings endorsing the New Jersey law for technical reasons.
“It’s a landmark decision,” said Ronald Riccio, general counsel with Morristown-based McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter who argued on behalf of Monmouth Park Racetrack before the Supreme Court. “[This was] the age-old debate between the power of the federal government and the autonomy of states. Now it’s up for each state to decide for themselves.”
“What’s really gratifying about this is that it’s a great victory for the Monmouth Park Racetrack and the people that work there,” he continued. “The clerks, the security guards, the waiters and waitresses. For the last six years they didn’t know whether Monmouth Park was going to survive or not. Now they know, so it’s a great day for them.”
We fought for more than 7 years on this case, overcoming the hurdles of the legal process & standing up against formidable opponents. The fact that we met those challenges & won approval of the highest court in the US is a byproduct of our determination & legitimacy of our case.
— Steve Sweeney (@NJSenatePres) May 14, 2018
In a press conference Monday, Monmouth Park CEO and President Dennis Drazin talked about how the track “has been the leader throughout in fighting this fight.”
“We were the only ones willing to do it in the beginning,” he said. “The other casinos had regulatory concerns based on business they had in other states. Even when everybody was telling me it’s time to give up, you can’t win, you’re fighting the Goliaths of the world: [the] National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Hockey League. We kept persevering. Our legal team, which was headed by Ron Riccio, continued to persevere. I kept encouraging everybody to hang in there.
“… At the end of the day this is terrific for New Jersey. We think that of the $400 billion illegal wagering market in this country, we think probably $10 billion will come in in New Jersey. That revenue will help not only racetracks and casinos, but I’m sure the Legislature will put the taxes to good use. … New Jersey needs tax dollars. Although people don’t like to hear about raising taxes, sometimes you have no choice. I support the governor and Legislature in doing whatever is best for New Jersey.”
Monmouth Park is finishing up the expansion of its gaming area, a project undertaken in anticipation of today’s ruling.
“Today’s decision is a victory for the millions of Americans who seek to bet on sports in a safe and regulated manner,” said Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, a national trade group representing the $240 billion U.S. casino industry. “ … Today’s ruling makes it possible for states and sovereign tribal nations to give Americans what they want: an open, transparent, and responsible market for sports betting. Through smart, efficient regulation this new market will protect consumers, preserve the integrity of the games we love, empower law enforcement to fight illegal gambling, and generate new revenue for states, sporting bodies, broadcasters and many others.”
The Casino Association of New Jersey also applauded Monday’s decision, saying regulated sports wagering “will provide an economic boost for Atlantic City, Atlantic County and the entire state of New Jersey, generating meaningful tax revenue while supporting local jobs and businesses.”
“It’s very exciting news for Atlantic City. We will have yet another source of revenue for the gaming industry in the area,” said Rummy Pandit, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Tourism and Hospitality at Stockton University. “… Slowly but surely and in terms of revenue, Atlantic city can look forward to ongoing growth.”
Chris Soriano, a partner at the Cherry Hill-based Duane Morris LLP and a member of the Trial Practice Group which focuses on gaming law and business litigation, said sports betting will keep the Atlantic City market going all-year round.
“March Madness, Super Bowl, NFL weekend, Atlantic City is just not as busy as it is during the summer,” Soriano said. “At those times of the year, if you can bring additional people in, now you’ve got more people using the amenities, in addition to the revenue you’re going to get during sports betting.”
With the overturning of PASPA, betting on college sports would be allowed, but with limitations. Betting would not be allowed on any college game that takes place in New Jersey or on any New Jersey college team regardless of where the game is played.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reported DraftKings Inc., the web-based fantasy sports firm, has been hiring staff for a new office it opened in Hoboken in February. Chief Executive Jason Robins said the company has also held discussions with officials at the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, which would need to approve the company’s license and gambling software.