Casino Gambling

Court rules against sports betting but AGA keeps push alive

Geoff Freeman, center, president of the American Gaming Association, said at IP Casino Resort in Biloxi on Aug. 3 that sports betting could help Mississippi and other states. At left is Allen Godfrey, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, and at right is Larry Gregory, director of the Mississippi Gaming and Hospitality Association.
Geoff Freeman, center, president of the American Gaming Association, said at IP Casino Resort in Biloxi on Aug. 3 that sports betting could help Mississippi and other states. At left is Allen Godfrey, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, and at right is Larry Gregory, director of the Mississippi Gaming and Hospitality Association. meperez@sunherald.com

A federal appeals court on Tuesday dealt another defeat to New Jersey’s years-long attempt to legalize sports betting, setting aside the state’s challenge to a federal betting ban.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling invalidated a law passed by New Jersey in 2014 that would have allowed sports betting at casinos and racetracks. The court found New Jersey’s law repealing prohibitions against sports gambling violated the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which forbids state-authorized sports gambling.

“Because PASPA, by its terms, prohibits states from authorizing by law sports gambling, and because the 2014 law does exactly that, the 2014 law violates federal law,” the court wrote.

American Gaming Association President Geoff Freeman said in a statement after the ruling that “Washington has a responsibility to fix a failed law that it created nearly 25 years ago. A federal government prohibition has driven an illegal, and occasionally dangerous, sports betting market of at least $150 billion annually.

“Law enforcement, mayors, leaders in sports, fans and many others agree that it’s time for a regulated sports betting marketplace that protects consumers, communities and the integrity of sports we enjoy.”

He said the AGA is building a broad coalition of stakeholders “that will achieve a practical, modern day solution.”

Freeman was in Biloxi last week to kick off the year-long 25th anniversary celebration of casinos in Mississippi and spoke about the campaign to legalize sports betting.

Freeman said he thinks the best action is to repeal the federal law and give states the opportunity to treat sports betting as they do other gambling matters.

“If they wish to offer it, tremendous. If they choose not to offer it, that’s OK, too. But let’s give them the decision to make and get this out of Washington,” he said.

The law allows only Nevada to offer legal sports betting on individual games. Delaware offers multigame parlay betting in which players must pick several games correctly to win. Both were given exemptions when PASPA was passed.

Sports betting supporters have called the sports leagues’ stance against betting hypocritical, saying the leagues condone and profit from sports fantasy leagues in which participants assemble rosters of players from different teams and compete against others. Recently some owners and teams have called for legalizing sports betting.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and supporters in the state Legislature have sought to legalize sports gambling to help prop up the struggling casino and horse racing industries.

One of the judges who dissented in an earlier ruling also wrote a dissent Tuesday. Judge Julio Fuentes wrote that New Jersey’s repeal meant it wasn’t actually authorizing sports gambling.

“I do not see how a partial repeal of prohibitions is tantamount to authorizing by law a sports wagering scheme in violation of PASPA,” Fuentes wrote.

The state can appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court, which has already declined to hear the case once before.

  Comments