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Appeals court agrees to reconsider case to legalize sports betting in New Jersey

14 October 2015

A federal appeals court threw proponents of legalized sports betting a lifeline on Wednesday when the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia voted to vacate an August ruling that went against New Jersey's efforts to allow wagering on college and professional sports in casinos and at racetracks.

Today's development probably won't clear the path for heading to the counter and placing wagers on your favorite NFL teams this season, but noted sports and gaming attorney Daniel Wallach told Casino City today that it's a "distinct possibility" that day will come by the end of 2016.

"This isn't about legalizing sports betting in New Jersey or nationally in time for this year's Super Bowl; it's about the long term," said Wallach, an attorney with Becker & Poliakoff in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. "And we have taken a huge step in that direction with today's developments."

On Aug. 25, a three-judge panel upheld a lower court ruling that voided state legislation on sports gambling in the Garden State in a 2-to-1 decision, claiming the state's quest to legalize sports betting violated the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which passed in 1992 and bans sports betting in all but four states: Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon.

But today, a "majority of the active judges" voted for a "rehearing en banc," which Jeff Ifrah, founding partner of Ifrah Law in Washington, D.C., said is the equivalent of the New Jersey casinos and racetracks "completing a Hail Mary pass."

The chances of legalized sports-betting in New Jersey and at Atlantic City casinos received a big boost on Wednesday. (photo by Larry Sieg)

The chances of legalized sports-betting in New Jersey and at Atlantic City casinos received a big boost on Wednesday. (photo by Larry Sieg)

"It's a huge development and huge boost for the move to legalize sports betting," said Ifrah, who publishes the blog IfrahOniGaming.com. "When you look at why the court may have agreed to a rehearing, you have to think they're doing it in order to reverse it. Sure, a dismissal is possible, but that's not my immediate instinct. A majority of the active judges had to grant this request, so it's obvious they have some questions. That's a positive sign."

Wallach said he was not surprised by today's news, explaining, "We had two decisions in direct and explicit conflict with each other. It had all of the boxes checked for a rehearing."

So where does the case go from here? Wallach predicts we are about to enter an "elongated phase" in which three key events will take place in the "next four to six months, or longer."
First, both parties will file supplemental briefs. This has not been scheduled yet, but he said it should happen in the next six to eight weeks. Next, oral arguments need to be heard; Wallach predicted that would take place between December 2015 and February 2016.

Finally, he said, a ruling will be announced, most likely in the spring.

"There could be an appeal to the Supreme Court after that, but my best guess is that if the ruling comes down in favor of New Jersey, you could be placing a bet at Monmouth Park in time for Week 1 of the 2016 NFL season. It's that close to becoming a reality."

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Best of Gary Trask
Gary Trask

Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT
Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT