In a decision that also could effect efforts to regulate tobacco and liquor advertising, Judge Joseph H. Rodriguez of the U.S. District Court in Newark, N.J., summarily overturned federal laws and Federal Communications Commission rules restricting broadcast gambling ads, citing them as unconstitutional in light of the First Amendment principles put forth by the U.S. Supreme Court last year in the 44 Liquormart case.
The immediate effect of the ruling is to open New Jersey to TV and radio ads for gaming and gambling, letting current advertisers tout gaming instead of hotels. Also, smaller casinos without hotels for the first time can tout tournaments, subject only to state laws.
BROADER REACH POSSIBLE
The ruling quickly could have a far broader reach, however. The Justice Department must decide by Dec. 23 whether to appeal an earlier decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit that struck down the same laws and rules for slightly different reasons.
That decision in a Valley Broadcasting Co. case prompted the federal government to suspend enforcement of its gambling ad bans in the nine western states in the 9th Circuit.
The New Jersey case was filed by Players International but the plaintiffs included broadcasters and casino operators from around the U.S. Lawyers said they will argue that even if Justice appeals the Valley Broadcasting case, enforcement of the rules should be suspended nationally pending the appeal.
HEADED FOR SUPREME COURT?
"In effect, the judge [in New Jersey] was saying we already have a U.S. Supreme Court case on this issue," said Steven Perskie, an attorney for Players International. "For the FCC to try to seek to enforce this on a Swiss cheese basis is irresponsible."
One reason the judge in New Jersey gave for his ruling was that the government hadn't demonstrated that ad curbs were effective. Ad groups later suggested the