Bookmakers, analyst bet on U.S. Supreme Court to legalize sports betting

When a federal appeals court this month rejected New Jersey’s challenge of the federal ban on sports betting, bookmakers and casino operators were left wondering what’s next.

The arguments made by the state were that the Professional Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 that restricts sports gambling violates the state’s sovereign rights and is unconstitutional.

“We had a mission to pass Internet gaming, exchange wagering and sports betting,” Bill Pascrell, a partner with Princeton Public Affairs Group Inc. in Trenton, N.J., said during a panel discussion Tuesday on sports betting and fantasy sports at the Global Gaming Expo at the Sands Expo and Convention Center.

“I’m very excited … about what New Jersey represents in this space,” Pascrell said. “With the issue of sports betting, it’s not a question of if, but when.”

Pascrell led the campaign to enact New Jersey’s sports betting law. He said 67 percent of voters approved the measure in November 2011, which was quickly followed by “an enabling law passed overwhelmingly” in the state Legislature.

Pascrell said the National Football League quickly went to court and successfully blocked New Jersey from implementing its sports betting law. He said the U.S. Supreme Court was uniquely positioned to take the case and rule in New Jersey’s favor.

“I know I’m in the minority; expect … some very smart attorneys,” he said.

The NFL as well as the National Hockey League, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and the National Collegiate Athletic Association argue that the law would undermine the integrity of professional sports.

In a 2-to-1 decision, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia upheld a prior ruling that New Jersey’s law legalizing sports gambling conflicts with PASPA.

Eamonn Toland, president of Paddy Power North America, argued that the “only way to stamp out corruption is to have a legal sports betting market.” He estimated illegal sports betting is a $300 billion business in the U.S.

“It’s an enormous source of money,” Toland said. “We want to make it legal and regulate it. In Europe, we tend to work hand in glove with the sports leagues. It protects the leagues.”

Paddy Power may not be a well-known sports betting brand in the U.S. Based in Dublin, Ireland, Paddy Power is a publicly traded bookmaker with $4 billion in market cap.

In Nevada, casino visitors wagered more than $3.4 billion on sports last year.

Because of PASPA, Nevada retains its monopoly on offering complete race and sports wagering. Oregon, Montana, and Delaware, which offers parlay cards on NFL games, are the only other states that can offer sports wagering.

“It didn’t have to be that way,” said Art Manteris, vice president of race and sports book operations at Station Casinos Inc.

Manteris said that in 1989, the former Las Vegas Hilton opened a satellite sports book at the Flamingo Hilton. About a year later, he said, they had the idea to do it at racetracks across the country.

Laurel Park racetrack in Maryland wanted to operate a book and went so far as to start construction, Manteris said. PASPA was introduced and became the law of the land almost overnight, closing the door, he said.

Manteris blamed PASPA for creating “the offshore business.”

Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at csieroty@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @sierotyfeatures on Twitter.

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