Monmouth Park Appeals Decision on $150m Lawsuit Against US Leagues

Two horses battling down the stretch

Monmouth Park officials are not giving up in their fight for compensation. They are appealing the decision to reject their lawsuit against the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, and the NCAA.

They are seeking more than $150m (£117.3m) worth of damages because those sports leagues prevented them from offering sports betting for several years. The horse racing venue in New Jersey originally wanted to open a sportsbook in 2014, but could not because of significant resistance from these sports leagues.

Background to this lawsuit

The formal business group of Monmouth Park, the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horseman’s Association (NJTHA), is filing the appeal.

Sports betting has been technically legal in New Jersey since 2012. The governor at the time, Chris Christie, gave the green light to a sports betting legalization bill for the state’s casinos and racetracks.

Monmouth Park was ready to open their sportsbook in 2014, with the help of European bookmaker William Hill. However, the leading sports leagues in the United States brought a lawsuit against the race track for injunctive relief.

They cited the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PSPA), which contained the federal ban on sports betting. The judge’s ruling in this original case was that no sportsbook could open until there was a resolution between the parties.

End of the federal ban

In May, the federal ban on sports betting came to an end because of a US Supreme Court decision. Monmouth Park then decided to file its lawsuit against the sports leagues. The suit seeks as damages the revenues lost between 2014 and 2018.

The lawsuit claims that the sports leagues made false accusations in a court of law when speaking about the potential adverse effects of legal sports betting in the country. It also claims that the defendants were acting in bad faith and the enforcement of PASPA was selective.

The initial demand form Monmouth Park was to recover a $3.4m (£2.7m) bond posted by the leagues when they opposed sports betting plus attorney fees, interest, and court costs.

The track is now also seeking compensation for the loss of earnings due to the league’s lawsuit. Monmouth Park estimates it could have earned about $850,000 (£665,000) weekly from having a sportsbook open. This amounts to $150m between 2014 and 2018.

The leagues, of course, contested the lawsuit and the judge ruled in favor of the defendants.

The finding of the court says: “NJTHA was not wrongfully enjoined. The court, accordingly, finds good cause exists to deny NJTHA damages under the injunction bond. In 2014, PASPA was constitutionally valid. Thus, the law as it existed in 2014 clearly favored the leagues…The Court accordingly finds good cause exists to deny NJTHA damages.”

The racetrack’s appeal

As soon as this decision was made, Monmouth Park was set to appeal it. The CEO of Monmouth Park, Dennis Drazin, instantly focused on filing the appeal with the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. This is the court where New Jersey lost its PASPA challenge.

That was in August 2016; the vote was 9-3 in favor of the sports leagues. The case was then appealed to the Supreme Court, which was ultimately a success.

Since sports betting legalization, Monmouth Park has been offering a sportsbook. It opened in the middle of June and revenues have increased each month.

Mobile betting is particularly popular in the state, making up more than half of the total intake each month. Monmouth Park still partners with William Hill to operate its sports betting offering.

In September, the park’s sports betting revenues were over $2m (£1.6m). That fell to $607,000 (£475,000) the following month.