The New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NJTHA) is chasing a bond worth $3.4m and damages of up to $150m which, it claims, are owed in lieu of an allegedly unconstitutional injunction served by the major sporting leagues that prevented Monmouth Park racetrack from offering legal bets prior to the strike down of PASPA.
Quoted by the Courthouse News Service, Ronald Riccio of McElroy Deutsch, on behalf of the Horsemen’s Association, told the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit this week: “For six years the leagues used what we now know as an unconstitutional statute. And it almost put Monmouth Park out of business.”
The row goes back to 2014 when New Jersey turned to state law in a bid to negate the PASPA rules. But that move was scotched by a number of leagues including the NCAA who sought injunctive relief to prevent sports betting taking place.
Details of the stand-off are included in the previously published appellate brief prepared on behalf of the NJTHA which states: “For nearly six years prior to the Supreme Court’s judgment plaintiffs appellees, a group of sports leagues had repeatedly used the private right of action created by PASPA to block the NJTHA from conducting lawful sports gambling at Monmouth Park Racetrack. At every stage of that litigation, NJTHA had argued that PASPA was unconstitutional.
“Ultimately, the Supreme Court agreed with NJTHA and held PASPA unconstitutional. Between October 24, 2014 and November 21, 2014, the leagues procured from the district court a temporary restraining order blocking NJTHA from conducting sports gambling at Monmouth Park. To support their purported imminent threat of irreparable injury the leagues relied on sworn statements claiming that they needed injunctive relief to protect the integrity of their games from the spread of sports gambling. These sworn statements were false.”
The brief also claims that at the same time as the leagues were seeking injunctive relief they were investing in and profiting from the spread of sports gambling. “NJTHA provided uncontroverted evidence of the Leagues’ double dealing,” it noted. “The district court repeatedly ignored the evidence that the Leagues procured injunctive relief against NJTHA in bad faith.”
The district court ordered the leagues to post a $3.4m bond at the time the TRO was issued. The purpose of the bond was to guarantee that NJTHA would have a fund available from which it could be compensated for its damages if it was later found to have been wrongfully enjoined or restrained. “NJTHA had every reason to believe that it would be protected by the bond the district court had ordered,” says the brief. “But when it came time for the district court to enforce the bond it had previously ordered the Leagues to post, it declined to do so.”
Ronald Riccio’s opinion is that the horsemen should have had the money in that $3.4m bond all along. In light of the strike down of PASPA that would not seem unreasonable. As for successfully claiming a full $150m in damages in the Third Circuit, that might prove to be too much of a long shot.