After years of duking it out in the courts, an unnecessary veto and promises of an override, Governor Christie has signed into law in New Jersey a bill ending state prohibition of sports betting.

S2460/A3711 passed both houses of the New Jersey Legislature easily and received Governor Christie’s signature Friday, Oct. 17.

The bill, while not quite an override of the governor’s veto of S2250, retains the general approach of the original legislation, which did not directly challenge the federal government’s 1992 ban on sports betting in states that did not gain approval before the ban went into effect.  Instead, it removes state and local law enforcement in New Jersey from assisting the federal government in enforcing its so-called laws.  Those who drafted the latest version of the legislation included a provision still retaining a ban on gambling by individuals under 21.

The legislative statement also includes language from the Third Court of Appeals in its rationale for passing the bill:

This bill is in response to the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (the Court) in National Collegiate Athletic Association, et al. v. Governor of the State of New Jersey, et al., C.A. No. 13-1713, 1714, 1715, dated September 17, 2013, wherein the Court in interpreting the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), 28 U.S.C. § 3701 et seq., stated that it does “not read PASPA to prohibit New Jersey from repealing its ban on sports wagering.”  Third Circuit Decision at 73.  The Court further stated that “it is left up to each state to decide how much of a law enforcement priority it wants to make of sports gambling, or what the exact contours of the prohibition will be.”  Decision at 78-79 (emphasis added).  Moreover, the United States in its brief submitted to the Supreme Court of the United States in opposition to petitions for writs of certiorari in the above-referenced case wrote that “PASPA does not even obligate New Jersey to leave in place the state-law prohibitions against sports gambling that it had chosen to adopt prior to PASPA’s enactment.  To the contrary, New Jersey is free to repeal those prohibitions in whole or in part.”  United States Brief to the Supreme Court in Opposition to Petitions for Writs of Certiorari, dated May 14, 2014, at 11 (emphasis added).

Accordingly, under this bill, New Jersey would decide that its “exact contours of the prohibition” against sports wagering should be to repeal New Jersey’s prohibitions against sports wagering “at casinos or gambling houses in Atlantic City or at current running and harness horse racetracks in this State.”

This is similar to what has been happening in Colorado and Washington State with the legalization of recreational marijuana, and in 20+ other states with the same for medicinal marijuana. By removing a state prohibition, actions prohibited by the federal government are given a path forward, even without a repeal on the federal level.

Hopefully, this new law in New Jersey puts this issue to bed and allows Trenton to focus on bigger issues, albeit with the same approach consistent with the anti-commandeering doctrine.

Could our state legislature and governor actually thwart federal tyranny by simply refusing to use state and local employees to enforce their acts?  I’d bet money on it!


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