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Is Sports Betting About To Become Legal Outside Of Nevada?

I cover the intersection of sports and money.

The State of New Jersey has fought for years to establish a sports betting scheme that would allow it to bring in more money for its troubled budget and provide a boost to its struggling casino industry. Each effort has been shot down, with the NCAA and the “Big Four” American professional sports leagues (NFL, MLB, NHL and NBA) claiming that allowing New Jersey such an exception would be a blatant violation of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (“PASPA”), which bans states from offering any form of sports betting to individuals within their borders. The one exception among the U.S. states that is allowed a sweeping form of sports betting is Nevada, as it was grandfathered in when PASPA was passed.

There may finally be hope for New Jersey and others states that seek to implement a sports wagering system. This Wednesday, February 17, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals will rehear New Jersey’s case as to why it believes it should be able to permit casinos and racetracks within the state to offer sports betting at such venues. A majority of judges in the Third Circuit were required to vote for a rehearing in order for it to be granted, which is a promising sign for New Jersey in its ongoing quest to essentially circumvent PASPA.

Why is the Third Circuit’s rehearing so important?

Rehearings are extremely rare; circuit courts of appeal are reluctant to grant such requests. By way of example, in 2006 a total of 1,028 motions for rehearing were filed in the Fourth District Court of Appeals and only twenty-one of them were granted. That makes the granting of New Jersey’s case a special exception to the rule and may be read as a positive sign as to the likelihood of success on the merits of the state’s argument.

“It’s huge,” said New Jersey Senator Raymond Lesniak when the rehearingwas initially announced. ”Chances are, they wouldn’t have vacated the ruling if they were only going to later on confirm it.”

While New Jersey has certainly gained an edge over its prior position by way of receiving approval for a rehearing, it is not case closed for the state. It still must prove that the prior decisions were wrong and that New Jersey should be entitled to enact the sports betting system it selected in the past.

“We are glad that the ruling – which robbed New Jersey of the opportunity to benefit from the billion-dollar sports betting industry – will be reconsidered and heard by the full court,” said Congressmen Frank Pallone, Jr. and Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey in October 2015. “Not only do the citizens of New Jersey overwhelmingly support legalized sports betting and the revenue that would come to the state with it, but existing federal law picks winners and losers, and is unconstitutional and arbitrary.  We remain committed to seeing sports betting become legal in New Jersey, and this reconsideration is a positive and important development.”

How will the rehearing work?

New Jersey’s rehearing on its sports betting plan will require that the court sits “en banc.” That is a Latin phrase meaning that all judges of the Third Circuit will participate in the rehearing, which is atypical, as standard Third Circuit decisions are provided by a panel of three judges.

There will be a total of twelve judges participating on Wednesday. Some of the judges have been involved in this case the past, either siding with the State of New Jersey or the NCAA and professional sports leagues in their efforts to keep sports betting banned.

Importantly, the en banc court’s decision will carry the day. The panel’s decision, which ruled against the State of New Jersey, was vacated when the en banc rehearing was granted. It is as though the prior decision of the court never existed.

If the en banc court of twelve judges vote in a 6-6 tie, then the district court’s original ruling will be reinstated. Thus, the State of New Jersey wants a 7-5 result in its favor, or better.

What is at issue?

This is New Jersey’s second major attempt to allow for sports betting within its borders. The first time around, PASPA’s constitutionality was challenged as a violation of states’ rights. New Jersey lost in a 2-1 decision, which indicated that the state is not prohibited from repealing its own ban on sports wagering under PASPA.

Thus, New Jersey repealed its own sports betting ban to the extent that it would only allow for casinos and racetracks to accept sports wagers. The state was told again, in a 2-1 decision, that its plan was unlawful. The court did not view New Jersey’s plan as a repeal, but instead deemed it to be a wrongful authorization for select entitles to be involved in sports betting.

The real issue is reconciling the two decisions, which may appear to contradict each other. The first loss for New Jersey indicated that the state could repeal a ban on sports betting, but the second loss seems to state that it cannot be done on a preferential basis. What an approved system would look like and how it would comport with PASPA are questions that remain unanswered.

What’s next after the rehearing?

Do not expect a ruling from the en banc court on Wednesday nor in close proximity to the rehearing. These decisions can take upwards of six monthsbefore actual rulings are released.

If New Jersey fails to win on rehearing, then it could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, the U.S. Supreme Court receives roughly 8,000 petitions for cases to be heard per year, and it grants and hears oral argument in approximately eighty of them. Thus, the statistical odds of this case making it to the U.S. Supreme Court are slim.

Should New Jersey prevail, then it would be extremely likely that the NCAA and professional sports leagues file an appeal. Additionally, the NCAA and professional sports leagues would be destined to seek an injunction against New Jersey’s casinos and racetracks offering any forms of sports betting while an appeal is ongoing. Either way, the en banc court’s decision on rehearing may not be the end of this lingering battle concerning sports betting.

A ruling in favor of New Jersey not only has the potential to change the sports betting landscape within the state, but could have ramifications for other states that seek implementing a similar system. If the court deems that New Jersey’s effort is permissible, then we could see a similar structure adopted by other states, possibly leading to more lawsuit, but also potentially resulting in the death of PASPA.

Read Full Article – http://www.forbes.com/sites/darrenheitner/2016/02/15/is-sports-betting-about-to-become-legal-outside-of-nevada/#56e2cf745c02

Italian police arrest dozens of Mafia suspects from female-led ‘Prickly Pear Lips’ gang

More than 500 officers took part in raid on Laudini clan in Sicilian port of Catania after heir told police about ‘three queens of Caltagirone’

Italian police have arrested dozens of suspected Mafia members in an international operation to dismantle a powerful Sicilian crime group run by women.

Over 500 officers took part in the raid on the Laudani clan in the Sicilian port of Catania, nicknamed “Mussi di ficurinia” (“Prickly pear lips”), in a sting that also involved forces in Germany and the Netherlands, Italian police told AFP.

Three women, known as the three queens of Caltagirone, a town near Catania, had ruled the clan with an iron grip as well as governing all financial matters but were brought down by the heir to the clan who began helping police.

The suspects were all wanted for Mafia association, extortion, drug trafficking and possessing illegal arms.

Of 109 arrest warrants issued on Wednesday, 80 people were detained, 23 were already serving time in prison and six are still eluding capture, police said.

Italian authorities say Giuseppe Laudani was selected to run the clan when he was 17 after his Mafia boss father was killed but he turned to police and told how the three women, Maria Scuderi, 51, Concetta Scalisi, 60 and Paola Torrisi, 52, had raised him.

Known as “the prince”, he described a world of violence and vendettas, with the women building power after his aunt Concetta’s life was saved by his father during an attempted assassination at the end of the 1980s, Italian media reports said.

Torrisi, daughter of a mobster boss who used to manage the clan’s international drug trading, was still young when she began to organise couriers in the area around Mount Etna, the active volcano which dominates Catania.

Laudani also told police about his brother Pippo and half-brother Alberto Caruso, as well as his grandfather Sebastiano Laudini, 90, who had served time between 1986 and 2012 and is now back under house arrest.

According to prosecutor Michelangelo Patane, the clan, which had sought ties with the cocaine-running ’Nrangheta mafia in Calabria, had a huge arsenal of weapons, including two bazookas.

The rocket launchers were intended for use in hits on several Sicilian magistrates but the plan was foiled when another informer told police the weapons were hidden in a garage on the slopes of Mount Etna.

The Laudani are believed to be behind a string of violent attacks in the 1990s, including the murder of a prison warden and a lawyer who had refused to be bought.

Police said they had been hampered in their investigations by local business owners, who either lied about being the victims of attempts to extort money from them or admitted the extortion but refused to help identify those responsible.

The Sicilian Mafia, known as “Cosa Nostra” or “Our Thing”, was Italy’s most powerful organised crime syndicate in the 1980s and 1990s, but has seen its power diminish following years of probes and mass arrests.

It also faces fierce underworld competition from the increasingly powerful Naples-based Camorra and ’Ndrangheta.

  • This article was amended on 10 February 2016. It originally stated that from the 109 arrest warrants issued, 86 people had been detained. In fact, 80 had been detained. This has been corrected.

Full Article – http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/10/italian-police-arrest-dozens-of-mafia-suspects-in-effort-to-dismantle-female-led-syndicate

Marijuana residue laws too vague, lawyer tells Nevada Supreme Court

A former Las Vegas stripper, who has spent 16 years in prison for killing six teenagers working on a road cleanup crew, is appealing once again to the Nevada Supreme Court.

A jury found Jessica Williams guilty in February 2001 of six counts of felony driving with a prohibited substance in her blood, part of the state’s law on driving under the influence.

Michael Pescetta, assistant federal public defender, argued that state laws regarding marijuana residue and driving under the influence conflict with one another. In one statute, marijuana metabolite does not qualify as a prohibited substance, he said.

“Why does this one (statute) control and not that one? This situation is at best a tie,” he said, adding that a “tie goes to the defendant.”

A panel of three — Chief Justice James Hardesty and Justices Nancy Saitta and Kristina Pickering — heard about 30 minutes of arguments Thursday but did not make a ruling.

Williams, who was 20 at the time of the March 2000 crash, admitted that she had smoked marijuana two hours before she fell asleep behind the wheel of a white Ford van. Her lawyer at trial said that she had used the stimulant-hallucinogen Ecstasy 10 hours earlier but maintained that she was not impaired and simply fell asleep before her van ran off Interstate 15 just north of Las Vegas.

Six teenagers died when the van veered into the I-15 median near Las Vegas Motor Speedway at a spot where a youth offenders work crew had been assigned to pick up trash.

Killed were Anthony Smith, 14; Scott Garner Jr., 14; Alberto Puig, 16; Maleyna Stoltzfus, 15; Rebeccah Glicken, 15; and Jennifer Booth, 16.

Pescetta wrote in court papers that Williams was denied fair warning that having marijuana metabolite in her blood would subject her to criminal liability.

He argued before the court that prosecutors did not thoroughly examine the conflicting statutes because the “notorious case” gained so much public attention.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Bruce Nelson said the high court had previously ruled — in 2004 — that state law was not vague.

“What’s changed?” he said. “Nothing. There is absolutely nothing new in this case.”

Hardesty responded: “I’m not sure the 2004 decision addressed the conflict adequately.”

Pescetta said the court did not perform a “vagueness analysis” on two statutes, “one of which says the defendant is guilty, and one of which says the defendant is not guilty.”

Nelson also said that medical marijuana was not legal at the time in Nevada. Since legalization, people can still face prosecution for driving under the influence of medical pot.

Pescetta also argued that her previous attorney, John Watkins, failed to raise the issue that marijuana metabolite was not a prohibited substance at the time of the crash. The prosecutor said Watkins’ representation was effective.

Williams, 36, remains in custody at the Jean Conservation Camp.

Contact reporter David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Find him on Twitter:@randompoker

Read Full Article – http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/las-vegas/marijuana-residue-laws-too-vague-lawyer-tells-nevada-supreme-court

Canada ex-mafia boss Rocco Zito shot dead in Toronto

A former Mafia boss has been shot dead at his home in the Canadian city of Toronto.

Rocco Zito, 87, had been a senior member of the notorious ‘Ndrangheta, or Calabrian mafia, based in southern Italy, according to Canadian media.

He was once one of Toronto’s most powerful mafia leaders, the Toronto Sun reported.

Zito’s son-in-law, Domenico Scopelliti, has been charged with murder after turning himself in to police.

Police said officers arrived at Zito’s home on Friday to find a man with gunshot wounds. Attempts were made to resuscitate him but he died of his injuries.

Officials did not immediately release the victim’s name.

Mr Scopelliti, 51, was named as a suspect and he surrendered to authorities on Saturday, a police statement said.

He later appeared in court where he was charged with first-degree murder.

Zito was born in Fiumara, Calabria, Italy, in 1928 and moved to Canada in the mid-1950s.

He was reported to have had ties with branches of the ‘Ndrangheta in New York, Montreal and Italy.

Italian police say the ‘Ndrangheta operates the biggest cocaine smuggling network in Europe.