On October 16, 2014, the New Jersey Legislature passed Senate Bill 2460, which changed the legal framework for sports betting in New Jersey. Today, Governor Christie signed that legislation into law. Immediately thereafter, the Attorney General's office withdrew the State's application for clarification of the currently existing injunction prohibiting New Jersey from regulating sports betting.
By way of brief history, New Jersey amended its Constitution to authorize the Legislature to legislate sports betting; the Leagues did and the professional sports leagues sued for an injunction. The state argued that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was unconstitutional. The District Court disagreed and enjoined the state from regulating sports betting. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, thus stopping efforts at legal sports betting in New Jersey casinos and racetracks.
Earlier this year, the Legislature passed S2250, which would have repealed New Jersey's criminal prohibitions on sports betting. Governor Chris Christie vetoed that legislation. However, in early September, the Attorney General issued a law enforcement directive concluding that the enacted (but enjoined) Sports Wagering Law effectively repealed New Jersey's criminal prohibitions on sports betting in casinos and racetracks, and stated that the state would not prosecute any casino or racetrack who accepted sports wagers. We covered that development here. The Attorney General also filed a motion for clarification of the earlier injunction. The sports leagues and DOJ opposed that motion, which we covered here and here. At the same time, S2460 was introduced in the Legislature, which would again modify New Jersey's prohibitions on sports betting.
S2460 passed both houses of the Legislature on October 16 and was signed by Governor Christie today. In a signing statement accompanying the bill, the Governor observed that this bill would formally codify the partial repeal of New Jersey's sports betting prohibitions recognized by the Attorney General, "in a manner acknowledged by the federal court of appeals to be lawful, thus avoiding another costly and unnecessary legal battle..." The Governor also notes that S2460 is an improvement over the earlier legislation because it makes clear that certain college sport events cannot be wagered upon. The Governor adds that S2460 repeals the January 2012 sports betting law in its entirety, thus eliminating any arguments about "severability." The Governor's message concludes, "I have always maintained that PASPA represents an unsound and exclusionary policy. But so long as PASPA remains in effect, New Jersey must abide by and respect its requirements. This bill does just that. Accordingly, I sign Senate Bill No. 2460 into law."
The state's reply brief on its motion to clarify the injunction was due today. Instead, immediately after the Governor signed the legislation, the Attorney General filed a letter with the Court, stating that the legislation "effects a full statutory repeal of all State laws and regulations that previously barred certain sports wagering activities at consenting casinos and racetracks in the State of New Jersey by persons 21 years of age and older. It also clarifies the absence of any State role in such wagering." The Attorney General says that the Directive interpreting the Sports Wagering Law is now moot because the old Sports Wagering Law has been repealed. The Attorney General accordingly withdrew the motion to clarify the injunction.
At this moment there is nothing that would stop a New Jersey casino or racetrack from accepting sports wagers immediately. It remains to be seen whether the DOJ or the Leagues will seek an injunction should any of those entities attempt to do so.