Monmouth Park Loses $150m Sports Betting Lawsuit

Monmouth Park has lost its lawsuit against major sports leagues in the United States. District Court Judge Michael Shipp ruled against the race track, siding instead with the group of major sports leagues.

The lawsuit dates back to the injunction the same judge issued in 2014. Monmouth Park and the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horseman’s Association (NJTHA), the park’s formal business group, are planning to appeal this ruling in the future.

Background to the lawsuit

In 2012, New Jersey made sports betting legal in a technical sense. The then governor Chris Christie authorized a sports betting bill for the racetracks and casinos in the state.

By 2014, Monmouth Park was set to open its sports betting offering with its bookmaker partner William Hill.

This led to a number of major sports leagues filing a lawsuit against them for injunctive relief under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992, which introduced the federal ban on sports betting.

As a result of the lawsuit, the judge would not allow the racetrack to operate a sportsbook until the parties reached a resolution.

Matters finally came to a head in May 2018, when the Supreme Court decided to dismantle PASPA and overturn the federal ban on sports betting. As Monmouth Park lost sports betting revenues during this interim, it is seeking compensation from the leagues.

The lawsuit was filed by the NJTHA.

How much compensation?

The defendants in this case are the Major League Baseball (MLB), National Hockey League (NHL), the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the National Football League (NFL).

The racetrack is claiming that these leagues, including their presidents/commissioners, made false statements in court about how detrimental sports betting would be if allowed in the United States.

It also claims that the defendants were acting in general bad faith and were selectively enforcing PASPA.

Monmouth Park’s first demand is the recuperation of a $3.4m bond the leagues posted when suing the state for its efforts to legalize sports betting. In addition to the $15m, it is also seeking attorneys’ fees, court costs and interest.

The figure being sought is not a frivolous one either, so it was worth the while of the racetrack to pursue it. Monmouth Park estimates the loss at around the $850,000 mark per week.

When calculating the number of weeks between the ending of the ban and the beginning of the restraining order, this would mean Monmouth Park is seeking damages of more than $150m.

This is why it made sense for the leagues to contest the lawsuit.

After a constant back and forth between the two parties, the judge has ruled in the league’s favor. The court’s finding is that: “NJTHA was not wrongfully enjoined. The court, accordingly, finds good cause exists to deny NJTHA damages under the injunction bond.”

This is not the end of this case as there will be an appeal. For such a significant sum, Monmouth Park believes an appeal will be worthwhile if it can manage to overturn the ruling.

Sports betting at the track

New Jersey officially began offering sports betting in mid-June. It has since seen significant increases in intake month on month.

The intake from mobile sports betting is significantly greater than the intake from offline means. Many residents from nearby states such as New York are crossing state lines and placing their sports bets through one of the many mobile betting apps.

Sports betting handlings rose from $186m in September to almost $261m in October.  However, the bettors saw their winnings increase too. Therefore, the operator’s revenues fell from $24m in September to $11.7m in October.

As per the 2012 agreement, William Hill provides the sportsbook at Monmouth Park. For October, its revenues fell to only $607,000 after it saw revenues of $2.1m in September.

William Hill’s online offering performed a bit better for this period, its intake rising from almost $71,000 in September to $608,000 for October. The operator’s mobile sports betting app was launched on 2 September.

William Hill, of course, has a long history of providing sports betting offerings and mobile products. This makes it a good partnership for the racetrack.

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