Supreme Court ruling on Voting Rights Act could help N.J. get sports betting

A sports betting room in Delaware. (Steve Ruark/AP, file)

A sports betting room in Delaware. (Steve Ruark/AP, file)

This week’s Supreme Court ruling striking down part of the Voting Rights Act could impact whether New Jersey can allow sports betting in its Atlantic City casinos.

That would only happen if a federal appeals court can be convinced that ensuring equal treatment among states for voting laws means that if four states can gamble on football then why not New Jersey too.

New Jersey is appealing a District Court ruling that rejected its attempt to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.

The NCAA and all four major professional sports leagues are opposing New Jersey’s attempt to become the fifth state to offer sports betting.

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On Wednesday in Philadelphia inside the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Ted Olson, the attorney representing New Jersey’s efforts to offer sports betting, argued that the Voting Rights Act ruling underscores the unfairness of a 1992 law that allows only Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana to offer some form of sports gambling.

Olson stated in a brief to the court that the Supreme Court ruling showed part of the Voting Rights Act discriminated against Southern states and “discrimination in favor of Nevada is likewise unconstitutional.”

Olson repeatedly referenced the Voting Rights decision in his oral arguments to the Third Circuit on Wednesday as well. 

But an attorney for the sports leagues was quick to characterize the Voting Rights case as a singular decision.

U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman stated that the Supreme Court’s decision “did not change the landscape for these purposes.” Congress was entitled to exempt those four states, he said. “What New Jersey is trying to do is flatly inconsistent with federal law.”

After the arguments finished, the Third Circuit judges said the case would be “taken under advisement” and did not indicate when they would make a decision. 

Whatever that decision may be, the case will likely not end here. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has acknowledged that should his state lose the battle at the appeals level, New Jersey would take the case to the Supreme Court.

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