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Justices reject NJ’s effort on sports betting

WASHINGTON D.C. (AP) – The Supreme Court on Monday left in place a ban on sports gambling in New Jersey, rebuffing an attempt to bring betting on professional and college sporting events to Atlantic City casinos and the state’s racetracks.

U.S. Supreme Court in Washington D.C
U.S. Supreme Court in Washington D.C. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The justices did not comment in letting stand lower court rulings that struck down New Jersey’s sports betting law because it conflicts with a federal law that that allows state-sanctioned sports gambling only in Nevada and three other states.

The state’s appeal was led by Gov. Chris Christie and it argued that New Jersey was trying to limit illegal sports wagering and capture some of that money for the state treasury. New Jersey says an estimated $500 billion is bet illegally on sporting events each year.

Asked for his reaction at a charity softball game at Yankee Stadium in which he was participating, Christie said the appeal was always a long-shot.

“So you know, that’s the way it goes,” he said. “Nothing more I can say. They said no so we have to move on.”

But the New Jersey lawmaker who wrote the betting legislation said he plans to introduce a bill that would repeal all laws prohibiting sports betting. Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D) said he hoped the U.S. Justice Department wouldn’t challenge it, which he said would be consistent with its stance in other areas.

In a statement, Lesniak vowed to keep up the fight for sports betting in New Jersey. “Today I will introduce legislation repealing the state laws that make sports betting illegal at our casinos and racetracks.  I expect that the U.S. Justice Department will refrain from intervening, as they have with Colorado and Washington when those states legalized marijuana.”

An optimistic Lesniak added, “I plan on placing my first bet at Monmouth Racetrack on September 8th for the Giants to beat the spread against the Lions on Monday Night Football.”

Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) also vowed to keep up the battle. “We are not giving up though. The economic impact that sports wagering can have on New Jersey is far too important to simply shrug our shoulders and move on,” he said in a statement.

Voters in New Jersey overwhelmingly endorsed legal sports betting in a nonbinding referendum in 2011. State lawmakers soon enacted a law to allow for betting at tracks and in casinos. Bets wouldn’t have been taken on games involving New Jersey colleges or college games played in the state.

But those actions ran up against the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, enacted by Congress to restrict betting on sports to a few states. Nevada has allowed betting on sports for more than 60 years, and Delaware, Montana and Oregon have at times permitted more limited betting. New Jersey missed a deadline in the law that would have allowed sports betting in Atlantic City.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association, the major professional leagues in baseball, basketball, football and hockey sued to block the New Jersey law from taking effect, saying betting would harm the integrity of their games. President Barack Obama’s administration also joined in the legal fight, opposing New Jersey.

A trial judge ruled against the state and his ruling was upheld by a divided panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.

The appeals court said it was not judging the wisdom or desirability of allowing sports wagering.

“New Jersey’s sports wagering law conflicts with PASPA and, under our Constitution, must yield,” the court said.

The dissenting judge said Congress exceeded its authority when it passed the federal sports betting law.

 

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed).

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