New Jersey made history in 2013 by becoming the third state in the US to legalize online casino and poker gambling. Before this, the typical gambling venues were the land-based casinos in Atlantic City. Now, residents can enjoy Atlantic City gambling online through several different digital casino vendors. One thing still missing from the NJ gambling landscape is sports betting. With the issue of legal of sports betting up for debate, could the Garden State finally get sports gambling options for its residents?
Sports betting has 2 different realms—brick-and-mortar and online. New Jersey is currently in the middle of an ongoing legal battle over the former type of betting. The state attempted to pass legislation authorizing sports betting in its licensed gambling establishment, but this was swiftly shut down by the federal government after a lawsuit from the major sports leagues. NJ appealed the decision and lost in the lower circuit courts but has landed an audience with the Supreme Court, despite the acting Solicitor General advising SCTOTUS to not bother with the case. Governor Christie is arguing that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), the federal ban on sports wagering in 46 states, is unconstitutional. Interested parties from both sides have been sending in amicus briefs for the court’s consideration in recent months, and oral arguments are expected to begin in early December.
If New Jersey somehow wins this case, which many legal analysts believe may actually happen, PASPA will likely be stricken down. This would allow New Jersey to introduce legal sports betting into its land-based casinos. Online sports betting in New Jersey, at least through state regulated means, would have to wait for another law to be dealt with—the Federal Wire Act.
The Federal Wire Act is the oldest of the sports gambling laws. It was passed in 1961 as a measure to thwart the rise of illegal sports betting conducted by the mafia through wire transmissions. Since then, technology has come a long way and some believe the law’s original language encompasses the entire spectrum of online gambling. The US Department of Justice issued a Formal Opinion in 2011 that strictly said the law applied to online sports betting, not online casinos or poker. This is how New Jersey was able to legalize these gambling forms.
In order for online sports gambling to exist in the state, the Federal Wire Act must be repealed or amended to legalize betting on sports. If PASPA were repealed, it would certainly go a long way towards the goal of total overhaul with the standing gambling laws. New Jersey residents can already enjoy legal online casinos and online poker, and they are close to hosting brick-and-mortar sports betting, but the Federal Wire Act must also be addressed if they want the total online gambling package. A decision on the ongoing court case is expected sometime in early 2018. If New Jersey wins, expect the dominos to begin falling in favor of online sports wagering.