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Inside Gaming: Judge Halts New Jersey Sports Betting, Nevada Numbers Down

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In this week’s edition of Inside Gaming, a federal judge nixes sports betting in New Jersey for the time being, a California casino remains closed amid a dramatic conflict within its ownership, and Nevada suffers a second straight month of decline in gaming revenue.

Judge Temporarily Halts Sports Betting in New Jersey

Last Friday morning we were asking a question on the minds of many in the gaming industry: “Will There Be Sports Betting in New Jersey This Weekend?” It was late that afternoon an answer to the question arrived via U.S. District Judge Michael A. Shipp — no, there would not.

The rapid passage by the state’s legislature of a sports betting bill had ostensibly paved the way for the Monmouth Park race track to start accepting bets on NFL games last Sunday. But the four major professional sports leagues in the U.S. (the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL) and the NCAA had requested an injunction to halt the betting, and Judge Shipp granted the request by issuing a temporary restraining order late Friday afternoon.

While delivering his ruling, Shipp recounted what has become a lengthy history of efforts to legalize sports betting in New Jersey, going back to late 2011 when an earlier bill was voted upon favorably by the state’s voters and signed into law by Governor Chris Christie, with the four sports leagues and NCAA subsequently suing then to prevent its implementation.

That case found its way into Shipp’s District Court where he ruled against the law as conflicting with the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) prohibiting sports betting nationwide with a few exceptions — sports lotteries in Oregon, Delaware, and Montana, and licensed sports betting in Nevada.

In his earlier ruling, Shipp maintained “to the extent the people of New Jersey disagree with PASPA, their remedy is not through passage of a state law or through the judiciary, but through the repeal or amendment of PASPA in Congress.” His ruling was upheld by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, with subsequent attempts by the state to take the case to the full Circuit and the Supreme Court being denied.

In his comments Friday, Shipp moved on to address the new law and the request by the leagues and NCAA for the temporary restraining order. As John Brennan of the Bergen Record reports, Shipp explained how in his view the complainants had met all four requirements of the TRO: “a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits; irreparable harm if an injunction is not granted; a balance of hardships in its favor; [and] a favorable impact on the public interest.”

The fight will continue with more hearings in the district court and Third Court of Appeals expected, with the possibility of the temporary injunction becoming permanent (although still subject to further legal challenges).

For a good summary of the Friday ruling and what might come next in New Jersey’s efforts to legalize sports betting, head over to 710 WOR and listen to John Brennan’s interview from last Friday.

Internal Warring of California Tribe Keeps Casino Closed

Speaking of court battles and casinos, on the other side of the country a federal judge this week ruled the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino near Fresno, California will not be reopening nearly three weeks after an armed confrontation between rival tribal factions over the casino’s ownership led to the casino’s closure.

Ongoing conflict among the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians over the casino’s leadership boiled over after the National Indian Gaming Commission threatened to close the casino over missing audits, with the tribe also subject to as much as $16 million in fines. By then two factions within the tribe had emerged in opposition to one another, the Lewis-Ayala faction led by Reggie Lewis and Nancy Ayala and the McDonald faction led by Tex McDonald.

With the Lewis-Ayala group in control of the casino, a group of about 20 gunmen from the McDonald faction entered the casino’s lobby on October 9, creating a scene of panic as security officers were subdued while the gunmen attempted to secure various documents from the building. Those efforts were thwarted by Madera County Sheriff deputies, and while the episode ended shy of further violence occurring, the casino was subsequently closed amid the turmoil.

On Wednesday Judge Lawrence J. O’Neal ruled that while the Lewis-Ayala faction will continue to control the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino, its doors will remain closed as the volatile nature of the conflict now threatens public safety.

Read more about the nature of the factions’ disagreement and its dramatic turns thus far at Fresno’s ABC 30.

Second Month of Decline for Nevada Gaming Revenue

Finally September saw Nevada’s gaming revenue decline for a second straight month, with the state’s total gaming revenue down nearly 6% year-over-year.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board released the September revenue figures on Tuesday, with declines reported also in Strip revenue (down over 12% year-over-year) and in Downtown revenue (down about 4%). After five months of increases for Nevada, the declines in August and September leave the overall totals down just under 1% for the first three quarters of 2014 as compared to a year ago.

As reported by Howard Stutz for the Las-Vegas Review Journal, “much of the blame” for the September decline has been “leveled at an unlucky run by the Strip’s high-end baccarat rooms and a fortunate month for blackjack players.” Indeed, baccarat revenue alone declined nearly 30% year-over-year. “The baccarat comparison was too much to overcome,” Deutsche Bank gaming analyst Carlo Santarelli told Stutz.

On the bright side for the Nevada casinos, the Vegas sports books (such as the one pictured above) did especially well in September. Sports wagering was up more than 12% for the month when compared to September 2013, with the revenue total ($44.6 million) representing the fourth highest ever for sports wagering in the state.

That increase was no doubt largely tied to the start of the NFL season and the challenge faced by the betting public to find the right side of well-placed lines each week, a challenge that has been addressed by the analysts over at Bookie Smash all season.

For more on Nevada’s September slide, slide over to the LVRJ.

Photo: Baishampayan Ghose. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.

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