U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals Sides with NJ Thoroughbred Horsemen in Sports Betting Case

A battle has taken place for quite some time now involving the Thoroughbred Horsemen Association of New Jersey and professional sports leagues like the NFL. The issue goes back before sports betting was legalized in the state and with the recent ruling, the horsemen may be back in the running to claim $150 million from the organizations.

New Ruling

A panel of three judges within the United States Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled earlier this week to vacate a lower court ruling that dismissed their attempt to collect millions of dollars in damages from the NFL along with other sports groups. The association can now move forward with trying to obtain damages from the professional sports organizations.

In the past, rulings in the case went towards the leagues, like the NFL and NBA. The horsemen then took their appeal to the highest court in the land, the US Supreme Court. On their first try, the horsemen lost. However, in 2017, there was a turnaround which led to the overturning of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 in May 2018. With that change, every state in the US now can offer sports betting services if they choose to legalize the option.

Now, with the recent ruling, the case goes back to US District Court under Judge Michael Shipp. In the past, Shipp dismissed a smaller claim by the horsemen of a $3.4 mm bond. The goal now will be to convince the judge that they deserve more compensation due to being stopped from offering sports betting for a four year time frame.

A Little History

In basic terms, once New Jersey was ready to purse sports betting, about five years ago, the leagues stood in their way. They did everything they could to put a stop to the state offering sports betting services. By the time the case worked its way through the courts, the option was essentially made available and the state was one of the first to get started.

Allow Discovery

The thoroughbred horsemen are now hoping that the judge will allow discovery in their case. This would allow each side to probe for evidence to push their cause. If this were to be allowed, it is believed that redacted depositions involving sports leagues commissioner and executives would be unsealed. The goal would be to find out if the lawsuit against New Jersey was started in bad faith.

In 2014, it was Shipp who issued a temporary restraining order on the horsemen. He did so at the direction of the Third Circuit court at the time. It seems that there is a possibility that the horsemen’s association was wrongfully enjoined.

Essentially, the ruling now allows the association to go after damages from the leagues based on their attempt to stop them from offering sports betting services. So how much can they seek? The new court decision will now be based on how much funds in damages the association can go after based on what they are rightfully owed. How that will be determined is anyone’s guess.

Interestingly enough, the major sports leagues have embraced the new industry for the most part, with teams setting up partnership deals with major casino brands a well as platform operators. If the leagues had only been so open in the beginning, they could have avoided this headache as well as earned money along the way.


Logan is based in Los Angeles and is an avid poker player having played in tournaments across the globe. He covers both poker & regulatory affairs.