NJ Sports Betting Lawsuit Against The Leagues Sparks A War Of Words

New Jersey won the sports betting battle. But the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association is on the warpath.

The organization, representing NJ racetrack Monmouth Park, filed suit in US District Court last week.

The lawsuit goes after the sports leagues that attempted to prevent the legalization of sports betting before the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of New Jersey on May 14.

The high court’s decision struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) and cleared the way for sports betting across the country.

A look into the NJTHA lawsuit

The NJTHA is claiming nearly $150 million in damages from the yearslong NJ sports betting fight. The organization says Monmouth Park could have started offering sports wagering in 2012 if not for the NCAA, NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB intervening.

The amount claimed in damages, the NJTHA estimates, represents how much Monmouth Park would have earned.

If that $150 million figure is not enough to grab attention, the NJTHA is hurling salt on what could be a sizable wound.

From the filing:

“During the intervening years, the Leagues’ actions nearly put Monmouth Park out of business, inflicted significant financial and emotional hardship on hundreds of innocent Monmouth Park workers, and jeopardized the continued viability of New Jersey’s entire equine industry, including its many horse farms and related open spaces. The Leagues succeeded in blocking Monmouth Park from conducting sports betting by relying on what the Supreme Court decided is an unconstitutional statute and by submitting ten false sworn statements.”

NJTHA: Leagues acted in ‘bad faith’

The horsemen’s association is not pulling any punches in its suit.

According to the court filing, the NJTHA alleges that the sports leagues were “actively fueling and profiting from the rapid expansion of sports betting” while trying to put a stop to New Jersey’s efforts.

“Behind this Court’s back, the Leagues have aggressively promoted and facilitated the spread of betting on both the outcome of the Leagues’ games as well as the statistical performances, via fantasy wagering, of the Leagues’ own players in the Leagues’ own games.”

By no means was that the end of the association’s claims:

“It is the epitome of bad faith for the Leagues in-house counsel to certify in a Verified Complaint, and for the Commissioners to falsely swear before this Court, that if sports betting is allowed to spread it would be disastrous for the Leagues, while at the same time outside this Court the Leagues and some of its team owners have hypocritically facilitated the spread of sports betting.”

And then this little tidbit about integrity fees:

“Most recently, despite a repudiation by a clear majority of the Supreme Court of all of the Leagues’ legal arguments, they have had the audacity to lobby the State of New Jersey to enact a law that would compel Monmouth Park to share with the Leagues its sports betting revenues, as well as the sports betting revenues of others. The Leagues have the nerve to call this bid for a share of sports betting revenues an “integrity fee.” The Leagues’ conduct is shameless. Their hypocrisy has no limits.”

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Leagues not going down easy

Representing the leagues, attorney Jeffrey Mishkin has asked for bifurcation, which is basically a preliminary ruling to see if the NJTHA even has a case.

Essentially, the leagues believe that the accusations of the NJTHA are “meritless, if not frivolous.”

The NJTHA has requested the hearing be accelerated. But if the case does come to fruition, Mishkin requests more time for the leagues to respond.

Ronald Riccio, representing the NJTHA, has not objected to allowing more time for the leagues to prepare a full response to the motion.

That said, Riccio insists “there is no basis” for bifurcation.

“In essence, what the Leagues want to do is pick and choose which parts of the NJTHA’s Motion it wishes to respond to at this time. Allowing a party responding to a motion to control how, when, and to what parts of a motion it chooses to respond is not contemplated by Local Rule 7.1(d)(2), nor does it, as the Leagues suggest, promote efficiency.”

In any case, while the fight for legal sports betting in New Jersey is over and state lawmakers prepare to debate and pass regulatory bills this week, this fight may continue long after the first bets are taken in the Garden State.

About the Author

Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is a longtime sportswriter who has covered the high school, collegiate, and professional levels. A graduate of Linfield College in McMinnville, Grant has covered games and written features and columns surrounding prep sports, Linfield, and Oregon State athletics and the Portland Trail Blazers throughout his career.