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N.J. sports betting case gets another chance

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New Jersey latest court loss was effectively vacated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
New Jersey latest court loss was effectively vacated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. - ()

New Jersey will get another shot to make its argument for legalized sports betting after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit granted the state an en banc rehearing of its case Wednesday.

By granting New Jersey’s motion request, the court has effectively vacated its most recent 2-to-1 August decision against the state.

At the time, the three-judge panel ruled in favor of the four professional sports leagues and the National Collegiate Athletic Association, claiming that if New Jersey were to legalize sports betting by repealing all prohibitions against it, the state would be violating the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a 23-year-old federal law that limits sports betting to just four states.

The rehearing, for which oral arguments have yet to be scheduled, will now be heard by a panel of at least 12 judges.

Daniel Wallach, a Florida-based sports and gaming attorney with Becker & Poliakoff, said he expects oral arguments to begin sometime between December and February.

Wallach says that he believes New Jersey’s chances of winning the case are now “excellent,” given that rehearings are historically followed by a change in the result of a case.

“The granting of the hearing is more than just a signal that the result is going to change,” Wallach said.

And if New Jersey were to win, Wallach said that it is “unlikely” that the U.S. Supreme Court would take up an appeal from the leagues, just as the high court has previously denied an appeal request from the state.

State Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), the state’s most vocal legislative proponent of sports betting and the sponsor of the bill calling for a repeal of its prohibitions, is holding out hope that the case can be resolved in time for the upcoming Super Bowl in February.

“The briefs have already been written, so there's no reason for the court to give the parties any more time to rewrite the briefs,” Lesniak said. “All they've got to do is put covers on them."

Lesniak said that the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament in March might be a more likely scenario, and he’s fine with that.

“I’ll take March Madness,” said Lesniak.

Wallach said the start of the 2016 NFL season next September is a much more realistic target date.

“We’re a long way away and a lot has to happen … but I will say I believe it’s better than 50 percent that New Jersey’s racetracks and casinos will be able to offer sports betting by the start of the 2016 NFL season,” Wallach said.

Whatever the timeline may be, Lesniak is still calling the rehearing a “huge victory” for the state.

“This gives us hope that all is not lost for Atlantic City or for our racing industries,” Lesniak said.

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