A federal appeals court ruled against New Jersey Tuesday in a case challenging a sports gambling law the state passed in 2014 to revive its failing casinos and racetracks.
In a 2-1 vote, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision to strike down the law that deregulated professional, collegiate and amateur sports betting at casinos and racetracks.
The case stemmed from the lawsuit five sports leagues, including the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the National Football League, brought against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and other state officials including the state’s director of gaming enforcement, David Rebuck.
The leagues argued that the New Jersey law violated the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which Congress passed in 1992 to prohibit state-sanctioned sports gambling.
Writing the court’s decision Tuesday, Judge Marjorie Rendell said federal judges are “duty-bound to interpret the text of the law as Congress wrote it.”
“While PASPA’s provisions and its reach are controversial and, some might say, unwise, we are not asked to judge the wisdom of PASPA and it is not our place to usurp Congress’ role simply because PASPA may have become an unpopular law,” she said.
Justice Julio Fuentes dissented from the court's majority and sided with the state, which argued that its 2014 law complied with PASPA because it did not create a comprehensive scheme or provide for a state regulatory role in sports gambling.
Fuentes said Congress did not intend for private sports wagering in casinos to violate PASPA.
“The majority fails to illustrate how the 2014 Law results in sports wagering pursuant to state law when there is no law in place as to several locations, no scheme created, and no state involvement," he said.
The American Gambling Association said the Third Circuit's ruling shows the need for a deeper examination into the best path forward on the issue of sports betting and how gaming should be regulated.
“With Americans betting at least $140 billion on sports illegally each year, it's clear that current law is not achieving its intended result,” AGA President and CEO Geoff Freeman said in a statement. “As the AGA leads an industry-wide task force to study sports betting, we will assess the implications of the court's decision as the gaming industry continues to develop innovative ways to provide products and experiences that meet consumers' demands.”