The New Jersey referendum has opened the door for the state to revisit the unconstitutionality of PASPA in court.

NEW JERSEY IS taking centre stage in the fight for legalised sports wagering. On November 8, 2011, New Jersey voters approved, by referendum, to allow sports wagering at Atlantic City casinos and racetracks in New Jersey by nearly a two to one margin. The next step is for New Jersey to continue its fight with the federal government over the restrictions of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). The National Football League (NFL) and the NCAA may undertake their traditional lobbying efforts aimed at thwarting the proliferation of sportsbetting. However, timing is perfect for supporters of sportsbetting to convince otherwise.

Sportsbetting in the United States remains a very controversial topic. It seems that many professional sports teams and the general public are concerned about corruption in the outcome of sports events because of sports wagering. Recently, while reading The Drunkard’s Walk,1 it became obvious to me that gambling was and continues to be a major influence in the field of statistical analysis. The book cites research conducted by Justin Wolfers at The University of Pennsylvania about the prevalence of ‘point shaving’ in college basketball (Wolfers, 2006). Wolfers sampled 44,120 NCAA Division 1 games from 1989 to 2005 and after intense statistical analysis, concluded, “Given that around one-fifth of all games involve a team favoured to win by at least 12 points, this suggests that around one percent of all games (or nearly 500 games through my 16-year sample) involve gambling related corruption.

Although later research (Borghesi, Paul, & Weinbach, 2009) disputed Wolfers’ claims of corruption in point shaving, the amount of attention now focused on corruption in sports due to sports wagering is alarming. It is alarming because a majority of the sports wagering action in the United States is illegal and attempts to regulate and control the activity are thwarted by the NCAA, professional sports teams, and heavily lobbied politicians.

Nevada, and to some extent, Delaware (parlay sports wagering), are taking the bulk of legal wagers on sports in the United States although Montana and Oregon are also able to accept sports wagers.
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November’s referendum on sportsbetting proved the appetite of New Jersey’s people for legalised sportsbetting in the state

November’s referendum on sportsbetting proved the appetite of New Jersey’s people for legalised sportsbetting in the state. Frank Catania, Attorney and Partner at New Jersey law firm, Catania & Ehrlich PC, provides an overview of the fallout form the Garden State’s referendum on sportsbetting.

IN 1992 AFTER passage of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), New Jersey was given the opportunity to pass legislation that would have allowed it to have sports betting at its casinos in Atlantic City. I was serving as the Deputy Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly at that time. The sportsbetting legislation was introduced, however, the then Speaker of the General Assembly, Chuck Haytaian, was lobbied heavily by New Jersey’s own US Senator Bill Bradley the sponsor of the PASPA, representatives from the National Football League (NFL), other sports leagues and many professional players pressuring the Speaker not to allow the bill to advance. On the opposing side, representatives from the casino industry were doing all they could to have the bill voted out of committee and posted for a vote before the full general Assembly. At that time, the casino industry in Atlantic City was flourishing with new casino openings and no competition from surrounding states (and sportsbetting was not viewed as a necessary economic boost).

Lesniak's bill

Fast forward to 2010 and New Jersey’s casino industry is in a tailspin, facing competition it never previously had and New Jersey’s horseracing industry is increasingly losing money. In an effort to help the race tracks and the casino industry, State Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), himself an attorney, institutes a suit to allow sportsbetting at New Jersey race tracks and in the Atlantic City casinos. The initial suit was dismissed by the Court on grounds that the plaintiff did not have standing to bring the action. Senator Lesniak did not throw his hands up in defeat. He introduced a bill that passed both the New Jersey Senate and General Assembly to have the sportsbetting issue placed as a question on the ballot for the November 2011 General Election.
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it seems as though online poker itself has been drawing dead ever since Black Friday

Anyone who’s ever played a hand of poker knows that there’s an element of momentum to the game: sometimes you can endure a lengthy cold deck of cards while other times you can go on a hot streak. Indeed, it seems as though online poker itself has been drawing dead ever since Black Friday. From the time the Department of Justice essentially shut down US online poker, there’s been little good news for American fans of the game to celebrate. Recent developments in the private sector and in various legislative bodies indicate, however, that the tide is about to turn in favour of legalising online poker in the United States, possibly as early as 2012.

Federal legislation

In all likelihood, as far as federal legislation is concerned, the next calendar year will just bring more of the same; case in point, the recent hearings on Capitol Hill prior to Thanksgiving. Both houses of Congress listened to testimony from individuals such as PPA Chairman Alfonse D’Amato and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass). No observable progress was made, however, with much of the testimony echoing what was debated in previous Congressional hearings on the matter.

The fact is that despite the positive attitudes and earnest efforts of online gaming advocates, they’re just not making much headway in their attempts to sway federal lawmakers in their favour. As with most traditionally contentious issues in the US, state governments seem to be far more nimble than their federal counterpart in terms of their ability to move forward and legislate one way or another.

State legislation

Nothing in the UIGEA specifically prohibits individual states from offering online gaming within their respective jurisdictions. Thus, while lacking the full effect of making online poker available to every American citizen, states at least have the power to offer it to their own residents (or specifically outlaw it, as with Washington State).

Whereas New Jersey was not too long ago just one signature away from being the first state to do this, Governor Chris Christie had other ideas. Lobbyists and lawmakers in other states, such as Iowa, Florida and California, have also spearheaded efforts to legalise intrastate online poker, but these too have not yet borne any fruit. Nevada, on the other had, seems headed in the right direction.
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