Legal sports betting in NJ? It just got one step closer
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court will take up New Jersey's bid to allow sports betting at its casinos and racetracks.
"This is a big victory for New Jersey," state Senator Ray Lesniak, who has long championed sports betting, told New Jersey 101.5. "I expect a bigger victory in the fall when the Supreme Court lets us start sports betting in New Jersey. It will jump-start Revel and maybe another casino or two, and save our horse racing industry."
He said it's even more promising that the Supreme Court will take on the case despite a U.S. Solicitor General's opinion in May that it should not.
The justices say Tuesday they will review a lower court ruling against the state, which is hoping to capture some of the estimated $150 billion that is illegally wagered on sports each year.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and supporters in the state Legislature have tried for years to legalize sports gambling to bolster the state's casino and horse racing industries. The casino industry, after a period of job losses and closings, has lately been doing better.
The case will be argued in the fall.
"It's a very, very big deal that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear this case," Senator Joe Kyrillos (R-Monmouth) said. "They hear so few, and we've had such horrible luck from various court decisions up until this point in time."
Kyrillos said New Jersey handicaps its horse racing industry, and states that allow sports betting and gambling at their tracks are seeing bigger purses and more crowds.
Speaking on a sports radio show this month, Christie criticized the federal government for restricting sports betting while simultaneously allowing states to legalize recreational marijuana even though it's illegal under federal law.
The court jumped into the case even after the Trump administration urged the justices not to get involved.
The four major pro sports leagues and the NCAA sued the state after Christie signed a law in 2014 to allow sports betting.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the New Jersey law last year, ruling that the law violated the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 that forbids state-authorized sports gambling.
Legal sports gambling is allowed in Nevada and three other states that already had approved some form of wagering before the federal law went into effect. Nevada is the only state to allow single-game wagering.
Congress gave New Jersey a one-time opportunity to become the fifth state before the ban was enacted, but the state failed to pass a sports betting law in the required time window.
Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia and Wisconsin had joined New Jersey's effort to have the case heard by the Supreme Court.
In 2014, the Supreme Court rejected New Jersey's earlier challenge to the federal law.
The case has lasted nearly as long as Christie has been in office. New Jersey voters passed a referendum to allow sports betting in 2011.
This month the American Gaming Association announced the creation of a coalition involving organizations of attorneys general and police, policymakers and others to advocate for the repeal of the ban that the industry says has fueled the $150 billion illegal sports betting market.
The groups cited research that showed legalizing sports betting in the U.S. could support more than 150,000 jobs.
— With additional reporting by Dino Flammia
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