Governor Christie’s Gamble Fails: Court Strikes Down Jersey Sports Betting Law

March 4th, 2013

I previously blogged about New Jersey’s facially unconstitutional attempt to allow betting on sports in the Garden State, even though a federal law did not allow New Jersey to do so (other states, including Nevada were allowed to).

A district court judge in New Jersey rejected all of Christies arguments:

This case presents several issues. Specifically, it is alleged that PASPA violates: 1) the Commerce Clause; 2) the Tenth Amendment; 3) the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Principles; and 4) the Equal Footing Doctrine. The Court begins its analysis of these issues with the time-honored presumption that PASPA, enacted by a co-equal branch of government, is constitutional. Moreover, the Court is required to adopt an interpretation that would deem the statute constitutional so long as that reading is reasonable. Pursuant to this mandate, the Court has determined that PASPA is a reasonable expression of Congress’ powers and is therefore constitutional.

No surprises on 1-3, but he equal-footing doctrine?! What’s that you ask? Basically, it means that newly admitted states should be treated on an “equal-footing” as states already admitted to the Union. But New Jersey was one of the original 13 colonies, you may ask. Why in the world would this doctrine be relevant?

NJTHA also challenges PASPA on “Equal Footing” grounds. (NJTHA’s Opp’n Br. 19- 25.) According to NJTHA, the Equal Footing Doctrine provides for the admission of additional states on equal footing with the original States and is analogous to the present case because the states should enjoy equal footing under PASPA. (Id. at 19-21.) At oral argument, however, NJTHA stated that “when we use the term ‘equal footing’ and ‘equal sovereignty,’ we mean the same thing[.]”

Yeah, no. The court smacks that down in an awesome line.

The matter presently before the Court does not involve a State that is either attempting to enter the Union or one that is recently admitted to the Union. New Jersey, as one of the original colonies, is inappropriately situated to make an argument that it is being treated differently than the original colonies pursuant to the Equal Footing Doctrine. See Coyle v. Smith, 221 U.S. 559, 579 (1995); United States v. Alaska, 521 U.S. 1, 5 (1888) (stating that newly admitted States are admitted on an “equal footing” with the original Thirteen Colonies). The Court, accordingly, does not find good cause to expand the Equal Footing Doctrine in the manner requested by NJTHA. As such, the constitutionality of PASPA withstands NJTHA’s Equal Footing challenge.

How often is a constitutional argument dismissed because the state raising it was one of the 13 original colonies? That is so bad-ass.

Anyway, Jersey says its going to appeal. What a waste of taxpayer dollars. Especially from a Governor who was a former U.S. Attorney.