In what could open the door once again to sports betting in New Jersey, today NJ Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman issued Formal Opinion 1-2014 regarding sports betting. At the same time, the State has sought relief from the United States District Court relating to the injunction issued against the State barring it from regulating sports betting.
New Jersey's legislation that authorized sports betting was enjoined by the federal courts because the courts concluded that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act ("PASPA") was constitutional and prohibited New Jersey from regulating sports betting. As the Attorney General's opinion points out, however, the state's law authorizing the regulation of sports betting also stated that a casino or racetrack may offer sports betting. The Attorney General argues that these two provisions are severable. While PASPA, therefore, prohibits the state from regulating sports betting, it cannot prohibit the state from repealing its prohibitions on sports betting. Thus, the Attorney General argues that the language in the sports wagering law that allows a casino or racetrack to operate a sports betting pool is tantamount to a repeal of the criminal prohibition on sports betting in New Jersey, for those two types of entities.
The Attorney General further notes that the sports betting legislation contains a severability provision, and argues that because the portion of the statute authorizing the state to regulate sports betting is severable from the portion of the statute that allows casinos and racetracks to offer sports betting, the portion of the statute that allows casinos and racetracks to offer sports betting remains valid law.
The Attorney General has now asked the District Court to modify its injunction to recoginze that there is no criminal prohibition on a casino or racetrack offering sports betting. Moreover, the Attorney General has directed that no law enforcement agency or prosecutor may seek to prosecute or civilly enjoin a casino or racetrack from offering sports betting.
It remains to be seen whether the sports leagues or the DOJ will oppose this request and seek to block this latest effort to implement sports betting in New Jersey.