Sports Betting Update: NJ vote result submitted to court; DOJ objects
January 19, 2011 - After attorneys representing iMEGA, Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney and Senator Raymond J. Lesniak submitted the results of the recent sports betting vote in the New Jersey legislature, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) immediately asked a US district court judge to reject those results, insisting they were irrelevant to a suit seeking the overturn of a two-decade national ban on expanded state-regulated wagering.
This past December, lawmakers in both houses of the New Jersey legislature voted overwhelmingly to approve a bill that will put the question of whether the state should legalize and regulate sports betting on the ballot during this year’s statewide elections. The legislative vote carried by a 36-to-3 margin in the Senate, and by a 55-to-17 margin in the Assembly.
The attorneys representing iMEGA and the two senators seek to include this result in the record being considered as part of their lawsuit (iMEGA, et al, v. Eric H. Holder, Jr., et al) to have the court overturn a 20-year-old Federal law prohibiting the expansion of state-regulated sports betting beyond four states which already have it - Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon. The plaintiffs insist that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1991 (PASPA) represents an unconstitutional restriction on states’ ability to determine what kinds of gambling activities they choose to regulate and tax within their own borders.
The DOJ, defendant in the case, counters that the law is fully constitutional - even though the DOJ claimed that the law was likely unconstitutional when it was first being drafted - and has entered motions requesting that the suit be thrown out of court, and alternately that the plaintiffs be barred from pursuing the case, alleging that none of them have the standing to challenge the law.
In this most recent skirmish, the DOJ objected to the submission of the results of the New Jersey vote, claiming it has no bearing on the suit. The DOJ also objected to the number and length of submission documents, and demanded the court throw them out.
“[P]laintiffs filed three separate sur-replies that exceed their requested page limit by more than 800%,” wrote attorney Peter D. Leary, of the DOJ civil division. “And not only do these briefs, when combined, total 25 pages, but each one of them exceeds three pages when just taken alone.”
Attorney Eric M. Bernstein, counsel to iMEGA, in a letter opposing the DOJ request, wrote to US District Court judge Garrett E. Brown Jr., “iMEGA first tried to obtain consent of the Defendants to supplement the record which was refused. Thereafter, the court directed that ‘each Plaintiff and Intervenor Plaintiff shall each respectively file their comprehensive sur-reply’ within seven (7) days…the Order clearly states that each Plaintiff was to file a sur-reply.
“Further, the Order states no limit on pages, but states that the sur-replies should be ‘comprehensive’. iMEGA submitted a four (4) page brief which focuses on the impact of SCR132 (the New Jersey sports betting vote) on the arguments of the Defendants. The request of (the DOJ) should therefore be denied.”
“The DOJ has bogged down this proceeding with motion after frivolous motion, to what end?” asked Joe Brennan Jr., iMEGA chairman. “I’m not an attorney, but I do have decent reading comprehension, and the court’s order on sur-replies asked each of the three plaintiffs to submit ‘comprehensive’ briefs, with no mention of ‘page limits’. Does anyone really believe that 25 pages concerning a successful, democratically-held vote on the issue of sports betting to be overwhelming?”
The suit, filed in March 2009, is expected to go to trial, absent further pretrial motions, sometime this spring.
AP: N.J. Legislature approves legalizing sports betting question on election ballot
iMEGA letter: Oppose DOJ motion - Sports betting suit
DOJ Motion to strike reply: Sports betting suit
Letter brief regarding adoption of NJ SCR132 on behalf of iMEGA
Brief of Sen. President Stephen M. Sweeney