Last week, New Jersey Governor Chris Cristie signed a bill repealing New Jersey's ban on sports gambling. For a few, glorious days, it appeared that New Jersey was governed by a man elected Governor, and not by the NFL and other sports leagues.
But then, U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp granted a temporary restraining order preventing the repeal from going into effect.
Shipp did not hear oral arguments in the case. That means that instead of listening to the leagues and other concerned anti-gamblers state why it's bad to have sports betting in New Jersey while it's okay in Nevada and London... Judge Shipp just said that everybody needed more time to think about the repeal.
It is of "paramount importance," claimed Shipp, that the status quo remains in place until he considers the case more fully.
What is there to consider? New Jersey had a law, the Governor repealed that law, end of discussion. Since when did it become of "paramount importance" for the state of New Jersey to check in with the NFL (and the NHL, NBA, MLB, and NCAA) before it signs or repeals its laws?
The sports leagues argue — or at least we think they will argue since again, Shipp didn't make them say anything — that Christie's repeal violates the 1992 U.S. Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). The PASPA basically said that Nevada can have sports gambling and nobody else can. PASPA prohibits most states from running a gambling operation (like a lottery) based on sports, and it prohibits private individuals from accepting bets on sports. In combination with the Wire Act, this is why we can't have nice things. The PASPA has questionable constitutional authority, and there are a few lawsuits floating around challenging the PASPA's authority.
But, Judge Shipp didn't really have to get into the legality of the PASPA. The PASPA shouldn't have anything to do with whether or not New Jersey can repeal one of ITS OWN LAWS. Repealing a law wouldn't have put Jersey in violation of the PASPA. Some casino taking bets this weekend might have, but at the very least that's the casino's call.
If a casino wants to take a bet, and somebody wants to say that they are in violation of federal laws, that's one thing. We can go to court and see if the government actually has constitutional authority to tell some states that they can gamble and others that they cannot. But telling a state that it can't even repeal a state law is quite another question. Here, the sports leagues are wielding a ridiculous amount of power, and Judge Shipp is letting them do it.
This seems like a good time to mention this little nugget from Legal Blitz:
Notably, Judge Shipp is the brother of former college/NFL player [Marcel] Shipp. [Marcel] Shipp is now an assistant coach at the University of Massachusetts.
Let's hope this stupid injunction is just temporary, so at least we can get back to fighting about the PASPA as opposed to whether or not the Governor of New Jersey is authorized to act like it.
PS: I saw approximately 18,647 advertisements for one-week fantasy football leagues while writing this article. There is enough hypocrisy going around to make Michael Corleone blush.