Four U.S. professional sports organizations, including the National Football League and Major League Baseball, sued to block sports wagering in New Jersey, saying it would raise doubts about the integrity of games.
The leagues seek to block a law signed by Governor Christopher Christie in January that would permit gambling at racetracks and Atlantic City casinos on professional and college sports. The National Hockey League, National Basketball Association and National Collegiate Athletic Association joined the complaint filed today in federal court in Trenton.
“Sports gambling in New Jersey would irreparably harm amateur and professional sports by fostering suspicion that individual plays and final scores of games may have been influenced by factors other than honest competition,” the leagues said in the complaint.
Christie, a first-term Republican, has said he wants to bring sports wagering to New Jersey by November without seeking approval from federal regulators. A 1992 U.S. law bans betting in all but four states: Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon.
“The voters of New Jersey said they wanted to allow sports gambling,” Christie told reporters today in Trenton. “I think we’re going to win. I don’t believe the federal government has the right to decide that only certain states can have sports gambling. On what basis?”
The New Jersey governor also said there is illegal sports gambling “going on in every state in America.”
“So why is this more injurious somehow than illegal sports gambling to the operations of the league or NCAA?” he said.
The leagues and NCAA asked a U.S. judge to rule that New Jersey’s law, and related regulations, violate the U.S. Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. That law gave New Jersey a chance between Jan. 1, 1993, and Jan. 1, 1994, to enact sports betting. At the time, New Jersey declined.
The complaint seeks to bar New Jersey from implementing the new law, as well as proposed regulations that were published on July 2. The Division of Gaming Enforcement is asking for public comments through Aug. 31. After that, regulators will accept applications for licenses to engage in sports betting.
The leagues and NCAA “cannot be compensated in money damages for the harm that sports gambling poses to the character and integrity of their respective sporting events,” according to the complaint.
“Once their reputations and goodwill have been compromised, and the bonds of loyalty and devotion between fans and teams have been broken, plaintiffs will have been irreparably injured in a manner that cannot be measured in dollars,” the complaint said.
Delaware passed a law in 2009 that allowed wagering on single-game bets in all sports. The U.S. Court of Appeals limited the law that year, allowing betting on at least three NFL games.
The case is National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Christie, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey (Trenton).
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