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New Jersey Continues Sports Betting Fight

Hearing Wednesday Doesn't Do Much To Increase State's Chances

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A Wednesday afternoon court hearing in Philadelphia on New Jersey’s years-long challenge to a federal law banning it from authorizing sports betting seemed to be another win for the sports leagues and the NCAA that have so far successfully blocked it, according to media reports.

According to reporting from ESPN’s David Payne Purdum, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia will likely side with the leagues, though it will be close. The judges will likely take until the late spring or early summer to make an announcement, according to the Washington Post.

New Jersey could again ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its case if it loses this round. The case centers around a law New Jersey passed that attempted to allow it to circumvent the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which other states, including neighboring Pennsylvania, have also expressed issue with.

That law limited sports betting to just Nevada and a handful of other states that were grandfathered in. Nevada is the only jurisdiction in America with traditional single-game sports betting.

Prior to Wednesday, the most recent court ruling that went against New Jersey was in August, when three out of the 12 judges on the Third Circuit Court voted 2-1 in favor of the leagues and the NCAA. That New Jersey was able to get another hearing on its attempt to partially repeal PASPA within its borders, this one in front of all 12 judges, was seen as promising for its case.

In order to win the case, New Jersey must get seven of the 12 judges to agree that its law authorizing sports books at existing gambling facilities is valid. Should this happen, the leagues and the NCAA would likely try to take the matter to the Supreme Court, which has already declined to weigh in on the issue.

New Jersey is contending that PASPA is unconstitutional. The Garden State had the opportunity to be grandfathered in for sports betting but it declined to do so at the time.

Sports betting has never been bigger in America. Sports books in Nevada won $231.8 million from gamblers in 2015, an increase of two percent compared to 2014 and an all-time high. The state also recently saw a record $132 million wagered on the Super Bowl. Additionally, the American Gaming Association found that Americans wagered $149 billion on sports in 2015, up from nearly $145 billion in 2014. Nearly all of that is wagered illegally, according to the AGA.

While the NFL and the NCAA have been the most consistent in their anti-gambling positions, the NBA has indicated that it would be open to a conversation about a federal sports betting framework, rather than a state-by-state patchwork that could take shape if New Jersey wins its challenge to PASPA and other states pursue sports betting too.

Federal regulation appears to be the likely scenario in the future.

The efforts by the Garden State come as Atlantic City continues its steep decline. The city is on the verge of bankruptcy, with New Jersey lawmakers pushing a plan to take over its finances. In the meantime, the state is moving toward asking voters to decide in November whether to allow casinos outside of Atlantic City, which could cause additional casino closings in the once prosperous gambling hub that saw four casinos go out of business in 2014.