On Tuesday, the various major sports leagues gathered in New Jersey for a hearing in connection with the attack on the state’s intention to legalize gambling on individual professional games. The case, which already has generated testimony from the Commissioners of the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL, initially turns on an important legal question regarding the ability of a party to file a lawsuit.
It’s called “standing.” And without it, a lawsuit can’t be pursued.
New Jersey argues that the sports leagues will suffer no injury, and thus they can’t sue. “There’s no evidence that gambling has hurt the sports leagues and their reputation,” said New Jersey’s lawyer (and former U.S. solicitor general) Theodore Olson, via the Associated Press. “All evidence shows sports have grown in this country alongside the growth of gambling, some legal, some not legal. Illegal gambling on the Super Bowl has made the Super Bowl the most-watched event on TV in the world.”
Jeffrey Mishkin, who represents the sports leagues, obviously disagrees. “There will be greater suspicion about all of the normal incidents in the game, every dropped pass, every missed free throw,” Mishkin said. “They’re our games. That gives us a personal stake, and that gives us standing.”
When the sports leagues successfully shut down Delaware’s effort to launch single-game betting under the same federal law being used against New Jersey, Delaware didn’t argue that the sports leagues have no right to sue. It’s smart for New Jersey to at least try. Apart from being a no-lose proposition, there’s no way Jersey can win without doing something different than Delaware did. After all, the two states reside in the Third U.S. Judicial Circuit, which means that the ultimate outcome on appeal from the Delaware case (which Delaware lost) will be binding on New Jersey if the same arguments are made.
New Jersey also is expected to attack the constitutionality of the 1992 federal law that restricts efforts by the various states to legalize gambling, another argument on which Delaware deferred.
A ruling on the “standing” issue is expected by Friday. Until then, perhaps New Jersey can take bets on the outcome.