Major sports leagues, NCAA challenge New Jersey on sports gambling

NEWARK, N.J. — Four major professional sports leagues and the NCAA filed a court challenge to the state’s latest attempt to offer legal sports gambling on Monday, calling the effort “astounding,” ”specious” and a “blatant violation” of an earlier court order.

The filing came three weeks after Republican Gov. Chris Christie issued a directive that would allow casinos and racetracks to offer sports wagering as long as it wasn’t state-regulated, an attempt to avoid conflicting with a 1992 federal law.

“Defendants’ latest arguments are nothing more than a blatant attempt to circumvent this Court’s injunction and the federal law that it prohibits defendants from violating,” the leagues wrote.

U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp, whose injunction sided with the leagues in upholding the federal ban last year, is expected to rule in Trenton by next week on the matter.

In the meantime, casinos and racetracks remain in limbo as they await a resolution. Monmouth Park officials have said they want to offer sports betting as soon as possible and have been making preparations for the last year.

New Jersey voters overwhelmingly endorsed legal sports betting through a nonbinding referendum in 2011, and the Legislature passed a sports wagering law that was signed by Christie in 2012.

In August of that year, the NFL, the NBA, the NHL, Major League Baseball and the NCAA sued Christie to stop sports gambling, citing the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which bans sports gambling in all but Nevada and three other states that had offered sports pools but not individual game betting.

Christie nevertheless this month announced a directive that sports betting at casinos and racetracks was no longer illegal in the state.

The leagues, in their filing on Monday, said that the law enacted by New Jersey’s Legislature explicitly saw sports gambling being a state-regulated industry, which would be a violation of the 1992 act. They also argued that since casinos and racetracks are heavily regulated by the state, offering sports wagering there would amount to having it regulated by the state as well.

Spokesmen for Christie and the state attorney general’s office didn’t respond to email requests for comment on the filing Monday.

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