Could NJ allow sports betting by the next Super Bowl?
The state may have turned a corner in the legal battle to bring sports betting to casinos and racetracks.
The full Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia has now agreed to hear New Jersey's argument in favor of it.
State Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Union) says he has been fighting this battle for New Jersey sports betting for six years, and this call from the Philadelphia court may be a pivotal development.
"It has been an uphill battle, and we finally got a big victory," Lesniak said.
For one thing, the Third Circuit's Judge Julio Fuentes, who had previously ruled against New Jersey, has now shifted his opinion, according to Lesniak.
"So now we are picking up judges one by one, when the panel ruled against us, Judge Fuentes dissented. And Judge Fuentes, the last time around, ruled against us. So there was a shifting of opinion in terms of the way we approach this. This is my third piece of legislation that we have presented to the courts, and the first time that we have got Judge Fuentes on our side," Lesniak said.
The lawmaker also took a swipe at one of the legal opponents of sports betting, the National Football League.
"The NFL has been hypocritical during this entire process. They already play four games at Wembly Stadium, where people are betting in London, right at their seats. And this whole fantasy sports scheme is a distinction without a difference."
Sounding optimistic, Lesniak suggests booking rooms in Atlantic City now, because New Jersey may have sports betting by the time the Super Bowl takes place.
"Anyone who wants to go to Atlantic City, book your rooms now, because they will all be booked soon when sports betting breathes life back into Atlantic City, for sure," Lesniak said.
Commenting on the court's decision to reconsider the sports betting issue, New Jersey Congressmen Frank Pallone and Frank LoBiondo, in a joint statement, said they're happy the ruling will be heard by the full court.
"We are glad that the ruling - which robbed New Jersey of the opportunity to benefit from the billion-dollar sports betting industry - will be reconsidered and heard by the full court. Not only do the citizens of New Jersey overwhelmingly support legalized sports betting and the revenue that would come to the state with it, but existing federal law picks winners and losers, and is unconstitutional and arbitrary," the statement reads. "Several states can already operate sports betting, but New Jersey has been shut out despite the will of our citizens. We remain committed to seeing sports betting become legal in New Jersey, and this reconsideration is a positive and important development."
Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor at New Jersey 101.5.