NJTHA Wins Sports Betting Lawsuit Against US Major Leagues

  • Major sports leagues opposed legalization of sports betting in New Jersey in 2014
  • NJTHA claimed this was illegal and won its court appeal on a vote of 2-1
  • Association can now seek damages, which could be as high as $150m
Lady Justice against US flag background
Following a court appeal, the NJTHA can now seek damages from the major sports leagues over blocking sports betting in the state. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Coming out on top

The New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NJTHA) has won its long-drawn legal battle against the major sports leagues in the United States.

These leagues were blocking legal sports betting in New Jersey through legal action that began in 2014. The NJTHA took them to court seeking damages as a result of lost earnings.

Appeal process

It was in the US Third Circuit Court of Appeals that a panel made up of three judges sided with the NJTHA. The appeal came after the US District Court had ruled that the association could seek no damages from the leagues.

the NJTHA can now claim damages from the major professional sports leagues in question

The judges’ vote was 2-1 in support of the NJTHA’s case. The US Circuit Court Judges Theodore McKee and Marjorie Rendell voted in favor of the association. Judge David Porter dissented.

As a result, the NJTHA can now claim damages from the major professional sports leagues in question. The exact sum it is entitled to is yet to be determined.

Major leagues opposed to sports betting

In 2014, the Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Football League (NFL), the National Hockey League (NHL), the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) came together to file a lawsuit against the introduction of sports betting in New Jersey.

The state legislature had given the green light for the legalization of sports betting to proceed at the time.

The leagues sought an injunction against the launch of sports betting in the state. They argued it would be in violation of federal law, as per the Professional and Amateurs Sports Protection Act (PASPA).

Seeking damages

After the federal ban on sports betting came to an end in May 2018 following a Supreme Court vote, the NJTHA began to seek damages from the major sports leagues. During the court arguments in July 2019, it said the amount owed could be upwards of $150m.

However, the ruling of the Third Circuit relates to the bond of $3.4m that the major leagues had posted as security in case they were on the wrong side of this ruling. 

the amount owed could be upwards of $150m

The NJTHA claimed that, as a result of the leagues using a law against them – later deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, one of the main racetracks in New Jersey, Monmouth Park nearly went out of business.

Final ruling

Judge Rendell stated that “PASPA provided the only basis for enjoining NJTHA from conducting sports gambling, and the Supreme Court ultimately held that law is unconstitutional.” The judge concluded that the association always had the right to offer sports betting. 

As per the original ruling, the Third Circuit panel deemed that the NJTHA was improperly subjected to a 28-day restraining order. Therefore, there could be no denial of a damages claim.

The panel concluded that the association was “wrongfully enjoined and should be able to call on the bond.”

Sports betting in New Jersey

After the ending of the federal ban, New Jersey fully legalized sports betting in June 2018. Since then, the state has seen massive success with sports betting.

New Jersey is now competing with Nevada as the leading state for sports betting in the United States. In August 2019, the sportsbooks handle in the state was over $293m, with revenues of $25.2m.

The major professional sports leagues have embraced legal sports betting since the ban was lifted. The various leagues have official gambling partners, sell their exclusive data to sportsbooks, and receive advertising money from these companies. 

Only the NCAA has resisted the embrace of sports betting, mainly due to its athletes being amateurs. These athletes do not get paid and therefore have more of an incentive to engage in betting. The NCAA has said it does not want to encourage this type of behavior.

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