On Friday New Jersey congressmen Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ-2) and Donald Norcross (D-NJ-1) released a letter addressed to leaders of the House Judiciary Committee urging a review of Congress’ role in shaping sports betting laws in the United States. This follows a report in late September that the congressmen were collecting signatures for such a review.
The letter mainly concerns PASPA (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act), the 1992 federal law that effectively bans states other than Nevada from operating sportsbooks and licensing sports betting operations. Currently the State of New Jersey and co-petitioner, the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, are facing off against the NCAA and major pro sports leagues in the Supreme Court of the United States regarding PASPA. Oral arguments are set for December 4 as New Jersey seeks a ruling that PASPA is unconstitutional. A decision in the case is expected around the spring of 2018.
Congressmen LoBiondo, Norcross and Others Urge House Judiciary Committee Leaders to Review Sports Betting Ban
The letter, which you can read in its entirety here, says in part about “PASPA’s failure” and their goals:
“We strongly believe the relevant committees should examine this issue prior to the Court’s ruling to ensure Congress is fully informed and positioned to quickly respond to the Court’s decision, as necessary.
“Regardless of the Court’s decision, we believe an immediate review of PASPA by Congress is warranted. In the 25 years since PASPA was enacted, the illegal market for sports betting has grown to an estimated $150 billion per year. The massive illegal market lacks consumer protections and deprives state and local jurisdictions of revenue that would otherwise stem from a regulated marketplace. In recognition of PASPA’s failure to prevent illegal sports betting and the benefits of regulating and taxing this activity, numerous states have either enacted or advanced legislative measures to authorize sports betting in recent years.”
Indeed, SportsHandle reviews those legislative efforts in this tracker. And even states that appear to have no interest in legalizing sports betting, such as Utah, which does not even operate a state lottery, object to PASPA on federalism grounds and have supported New Jersey in the Supreme Court by signing an amicus brief (“friends of the court”), along with West Virginia and 18 other states.
Previously Representative LoBiondo, whose district includes Atlantic City, told SportsHandle that he considered sports betting legislation a priority. “It’s certainly a priority but it’s difficult to find the right timing and the way to get it moving” he said.
It appears the time is now. The signatories to the above letter, which also include Representatives Leonard Lance (R-NJ-7) and Tom MacArthur (R-NJ-3), appear desirous of shaping federal policy toward sports betting, acknowledging that Congress may have overstepped constitutional bounds 25 years ago.
In an earlier conversation Professor Marc Edelman, the sports law expert told SportsHandle that Congress would shape the long term outcome of sports gambling “by whatever bill is passed next” on the point.
In response to the letter by LoBiondo and Norcross, Edelman added:
“The judicial branch only has the power to vote on the Constitutionality, or unconstitutionality, of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. It can neither pass laws nor set policy. Thus, it makes sense for Congress to begin looking at the future of sports gambling from a public policy perspective, and prepare itself to pass a bill supporting whatever view it believes makes policy sense once the Court rules on the Constitutional issue.”