In a bid to boost state revenues and help Atlantic City casinos and state racetracks, New Jersey has been pushing for years to legalize sports betting at AC gaming halls and racetracks.

(Mario Tama, Getty Images News)

Twice before, appellate judges have rejected the idea, and on Wednesday, attorneys representing the Garden State once again squared off in a U.S. Appeals Court with lawyers for the NFL, Major League Baseball, other professional sports leagues and the NCAA to debate the merits of allowing sports wagering in New Jersey.

New Jersey Sen. Ray Lesniak, who’s led the charge for sports betting said it’s virtually impossible to figure out what the appellate judges were thinking as they questioned both sides.

“It could go either way. I think it’s going to be a close call, but certainly the odds are in our favor,” he said.

Legislation sponsored by Lesniak - which was passed - essentially calls for the Garden State to ignore the federal ban on sports betting at New Jersey casinos and racetracks

He said New Jersey is arguing the federal law that bans sports betting also “requires the states to enforce it, and that’s a clear violation of the 10th Amendment of state’s rights. It makes perfect sense to argue that New Jersey should have what Las Vegas has, and also quite frankly what organized crime has, internet off-shore sports betting sites.”

He added his measure is a little difficult for lay people to understand, but “it’s basically saying that the federal government can’t force a state to enforce its laws, that violates the 10th Amendment.”

“What we want to win, what I want to win, what I’ve been fighting for, is to win not only for the state, but also for Atlantic City and our racetracks because those are two very important job producing activities that we have in the state,” Lesniak said. “Sports betting is going on whether we like it or not and it’s better for us to have it and for our jobs to benefit and our ailing casinos and racetracks.”

No one is sure when the court will issue a ruling, but Lesniak said he expects it to be sometime before June 30.

“The real important day of course for us would be the opening of the NFL season, that’s the time when the most action is so certainly we’d be ready by then," he said.

He added anyone interested in making a bet can call a bookie or get on a plane and fly to Las Vegas, and for games like the Super Bowl.

“And during the NCAA Tournament, any big sporting event, you can’t get a room in Las Vegas, and Atlantic City is a ghost town, we want that same opportunity and we deserve that same opportunity," he said.

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