In 2009, Delaware sought to legalize all sports betting, but faced a challenge from the same sports leagues currently suing New Jersey. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court — the same court in line to hear New Jersey’s challenge — ultimately ruled against Delaware.
But legal analysts say the cases are different.
“The issue has not been decided by the Delaware case,” Mr. Levenson said. “The focus of the other lawsuit was whether they could allow individual bets when they were grandfathered to do parlay bets. They didn’t deal with the constitutionality question.”
If New Jersey succeeds, PASPA would be nullified, opening the door for other states. Such a bill is pending in the California state Assembly, the lower house of its Legislature, and a few other states are closely monitoring the New Jersey legal battle, industry watchers say.
Yet evidence also suggests that not every state will rush to legalize sports betting if the ban is overturned.
Although federal law allows it, neither Oregon nor Montana offers parlay sports betting. Some sports analysts say states are wary of sports betting because it discourages professional sports franchises wary of the effect that legalized betting could have on the team’s integrity — from moving to the city. They cite Las Vegas, one of the largest metropolitan areas without a major-league sports franchise, as the prominent example. Either way, analysts expect the pending court case to be a long struggle that may not be determined until early next year, with an appeal virtually guaranteed from the losing side.
“We’re not talking, ‘in the next month or so,’” said Joseph Kelly, a business professor at the University of Buffalo and co-editor of the Gaming Law Review, a peer-reviewed scholarly journal. “Generally, it’s quite difficult to overturn a law that doesn’t deal with an absolute right. New Jersey has a difficult hurdle.”
Still, some are cautiously optimistic.
“Nobody has an advantage going into court. It always depends on how they set forth their arguments,” Mr. Levenson said. “But I think New Jersey has some great arguments.”
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