The federal government has traditionally left gambling policy up to the states. Other than a few broad statutes, the ability to legalize and regulate gambling has been a state-level decision.
That’s no longer the case.
With the repeal of PASPA, tradition has been thrown out the window. In this new post-PASPA world, the federal government has started dipping its toes into the conversation, and at least one state has a message for Congress: Stay in your lane.
A resolution, AR 214, introduced in the New Jersey Assembly on Jan. 17, “respectfully urges the New Jersey congressional delegation to oppose federal efforts to regulate sports betting in the United States.”
The resolution makes a note of the legislative efforts to impose federal oversight on the nascent sports betting industry in the US by Sens. Chuck Schumer and Orrin Hatch in 2018.
The resolution was referred to the Assembly’s State and Local Government Committee and currently has five sponsors:
- Vincent Mazzeo
- John Armato
- Bruce Land
- Eric Houghtaling
- Joann Downey
What would the sports betting resolution do?
Resolutions go through a similar legislative process as bills, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end.
Enacted resolutions are not laws and are usually reserved for honorifics, or in this case, to make a point.
A resolution of this sort is strictly a symbolic gesture.
In this case, the NJ legislature is broadcasting that the state would not appreciate any of its congressional delegates supporting federal action on sports betting.
Not New Jersey’s first gambling resolution
The New Jersey Legislature introduced a resolution opposing efforts to prohibit online gambling at the federal level in 2014, and passed a similar resolution in 2017.
Pennsylvania also introduced a resolution of this sort in 2014.
In 2014 and 2017, New Jersey and Pennsylvania were urging their congressional delegation to oppose federal action on online gambling, or rumored efforts to reinterpret the Wire Act.
“The Legislature of the State of New Jersey urges United States President Donald Trump, President Trump’s administration, and Congress to oppose any federal measures and actions to prohibit the transmission by wire communication of any bet or wager or of information assisting in the placement of any bet or wager, including Internet gaming.”
New Jersey’s fears of federal action turned out to be correct.
A year-and-a-half later, the Trump administration did take action against online gambling, when the Department of Justice issued an opinion that reversed the DOJ’s stance on the Wire Act’s applicability to online gambling earlier this month.
The new resolution doesn’t mention NJ online gambling, but there’s a good reason for that.
You can’t have it both ways
It would be a tough sell to call on your congressional delegation to oppose federal sports betting bills, and at the same time ask them to step in and amend or rewrite the Wire Act as a workaround for the new DOJ opinion.
That leaves New Jersey in a tricky situation.
Does the state continue to urge Congress to not step in across the board?
Does the state look for complete clarity and begin to advocate for a light touch approach to both online gambling and sports betting?
Or does the state fight the DOJ opinion in court, while on a parallel track, urge Congress not to get involved in sports betting?