Racetrack owner targets leagues in court

6 August 2018

The association that operates Monmouth Park Racetrack in New Jersey has confirmed it will seek financial damages from sports bodies that opposed overturning the federal ban on sports betting in a case that was heard nearly four years ago.

It emerged just over a month ago that The New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NJTHA) had filed initial court papers in May that named the National Collegiate Athletic Association, as well as American football's NFL, basketball's NBA, Major League Baseball and the NHL ice hockey league.

The NJTHA, which became New Jersey’s first legal sportsbook venue, is suing the leagues for “wrongfully” blocking the racetrack from offering legalised wagering on sporting events after Governor Chris Christie signed a law in 2014 that would have repealed the historic ban.

After the leagues filed a motion in October 2014, a New Jersey District Court ruled that the Sports Wagering Act of 2014 violated the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Betting Act (PASPA).

However, PASPA was finally overturned by the US Supreme Court in May.

The association has confirmed it is seeking a payment, with interest, of a $3.4m (£2.6m/€2.9m) bond that the leagues and the NCAA posted in 2014 to secure losses that might be suffered during the four-week period when the temporary restraining order was in effect. The association is also seeking about $140m in what it claims to be lost revenue between the October 2014 court ruling and May 2018.

No date has been set for the case, but a district court in Trenton will rule on the matter.

“On May 14, 2018, the Supreme Court held PASPA to be unconstitutional,” the association said in its latest court filing. “That holding meant that PASPA could not have invalidated New Jersey’s 2014 law. With the benefit of hindsight, at all times relevant herein, the NJTHA had the legal right to conduct sports betting at Monmouth Park.”

The leagues argued in a court filing last month that the association is not legally entitled to the bond payment or damages, describing the request for compensation to be “meritless, if not frivolous”.

In June, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy ceremonially placed the US state's first legal sports wagers as betting went live at Monmouth Park.