Third Circuit Rules Against New Jersey Effort to Legalize Gambling

September 17th, 2013

I suppose this case is further proof that an off-the-wall constitutional argument, combined with the power of a political party, is not enough to make courts rule in a certain way.

Tuesday’s appellate ruling, by a 2-1 majority, reinforced Shipp’s view.

“We are cognizant that certain questions related to this case — whether gambling on sporting events is harmful to the games’ integrity and whether states should be permitted to license and profit from the activity — engender strong views,” judges wrote. “But we are not asked to judge the wisdom of PASPA or of New Jersey’s law, or of the desirability of the activities they seek to regulate. We speak only to the legality of these measures as a matter of constitutional law … New Jersey’s sports wagering law conflicts with PASPA and, under our Constitution, must yield.”

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Thomas Vanaskie agreed substantially with his two colleagues but differed in his interpretation of PASPA, a law that allowed state-sanctioned sports gambling only in Nevada and three other states.

“PASPA attempts to implement federal policy by telling the states that they may not regulate an otherwise unregulated activity,” Vanaskie wrote. “The Constitution affords Congress no such power.”

Ted Olson will go for cert.

Update: The opinion is here. From the majority opinion:

In defense of its own sports wagering law, New Jersey counters that the leagues lack standing to bring this case because they suffer no injury from the State’s legalization of wagering on the outcomes of their games. In addition, alongside certain intervening defendants, New Jersey argues that PASPA is beyond Congress’ Commerce Clause powers to enact and that it violates two important principles that underlie our system of dual state and federal sovereignty: one known as the “anti-commandeering” doctrine, on the ground that PASPA impermissibly prohibits the states from enacting legislation to license sports gambling; the other known as the “equal sovereignty” principle, in that PASPA permits Nevada to license widespread sports gambling while banning other states from doing so. The District Court disagreed with each of these contentions, granted summary judgment to the leagues, and enjoined New Jersey from licensing sports betting

On appeal, we conclude that the leagues have Article III standing to enforce PASPA and that PASPA is constitutional. As will be made clear, accepting New Jersey’s arguments on the merits would require us to take several extraordinary steps, including: invalidating for the first time in our Circuit’s jurisprudence a law under the anticommandeering principle, a move even the United States Supreme Court has only twice made; expanding that principle to suspend commonplace operations of the Supremacy Clause over state activity contrary to federal laws; and making it harder for Congress to enact laws pursuant to the Commerce Clause if such laws affect some states differently than others.

Clement v. Olson. Point to Clement.