NJ Judge Issues Temporary Restraining Order to Stop Sports Gambling

Oct 12, 2014; Shanghai, China; NBA commissioner Adam Silver addresses the media at Mercedes-Benz Arena during a press conference before the Brooklyn Nets take on the Sacramento Kings. The Brooklyn Nets beat the Sacramento Kings 97-95 at Mercedes-Benz Arena. Mandatory Credit: Danny La-USA TODAY Sports

A U.S. District Court judge in Trenton, New Jersey on Friday issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) that will stop the race track at Monmouth Park from accepting sports bets, according to a report by ESPN.

According to New Jersey law [Crowe v. DeGioia, 90 N.J. 126, 132-135 (1982)], four requirements are considered for TROs:

  • A preliminary injunction should not issue except when necessary to prevent irreparable harm. Irreparable harm is generally considered to be harm which is not capable of being fully remedied by an award of money damages. If money damages can make the plaintiff whole, then the Courts will force the plaintiff to await final relief at a trial, and will rely upon the trial judge and/or jury to grant a full measure of relief in the form of money damages.
  • A preliminary injunction is generally withheld when the legal right underlying the plaintiff’s claim is unsettled. Thus, plaintiff must have a settled legal basis for the ultimate relief which the plaintiff claims in order to be entitled to a preliminary injunction. One exception to this rule applies when the injunction which the plaintiff seeks goes no further than to preserve the status quo ante, or in layman’s terms, preserves the status of the parties which existed immediately prior to the allegedly wrongful conduct of the defendant.
  • Preliminary injunctive relief will not issue when the material facts essential to the plaintiff’s claim are denied by the defendant under oath. Thus, if the defendant files affidavits in opposition to an application for preliminary injunction which disputes all of the material facts essential to the plaintiff’s case, the Court must either deny the preliminary injunction, or proceed to an immediate hearing with respect to the disputed issues before entering an injunction. Again, however, there is an exception to this rule that, “. . . mere doubt as to the validity of the claim is not an adequate basis for refusing to maintain the status quo.” Crowe v. DiGioia, supra at 133.
  • The final principle applied by the Court is that the Court must consider the relative hardship to the parties and to the public at large in granting or denying injunctive relief. The Court must determine first whether granting the injunction would be inimical to the public at large, or to third parties who are not involved in the litigation. The Court must weigh the hardship to the plaintiff if an injunction is denied against the hardship to the defendant if an injunction is granted. In this context the Court also may consider establishing a monetary bond or deposit requirement which the plaintiff must meet in order to obtain an injunction, in order to assure the defendant that if the defendant prevails in the litigation, defendant will be compensated for the harm caused by the injunction.

The relevant factors here are the first and the fourth, which have been italicized.

To put it into layman’s terms: rather than making the sports leagues await the remainder of the hearings while sports gambling is legal in New Jersey, the judge ordered it to stop for now until the hearings are held because if he/she had let gambling proceed on until then and subsequently ruled the Sports Wagering Law was unconstitutional, you’d run into some problems.

There will be more hearings in both the district court and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, both of which have previously ruled against New Jersey’s efforts to effectively legalize sports gambling (though the state’s legal arguments maintain that the state is just repealing laws that prohibit sports gambling, but we don’t want to get too much more into the legalese here than we already have).

In the wake of this ruling, it’s worth noting that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had this to say about sports gambling at the Bloomberg Sports Business Summit in September:

  • “It’s inevitable that, if all these states are broke, that there will be legalized sports betting in more states than Nevada. We will ultimately participate in that.”
  • “If you have a gentleman’s bet or a small wager on any kind of sports contest, it makes you that much more engaged in it. That’s where we’re going to see it pay dividends. If people are watching a game and clicking to bet on their smartphones, which is what people are doing in the United Kingdom right now, then it’s much more likely you’re going to stay tuned for a long time.”

Adam Silver’s NBA seems to be one that is more open to outside-the-box ideas, and with the league reportedly already considering things like the length of the season and the games themselves, it will have to find other ways to increase revenue. Advertisements on jerseys and embracing sports gambling may be a step in that direction.