Leagues Qualified to Challenge New Jersey Betting Law

Professional sports leagues can ask a federal court to keep a New Jersey’s sports gambling legislation from taking effect, a judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp in Newark, New Jersey, yesterday disagreed with the state and found that the basketball, baseball, football and hockey leagues have proper standing to sue to block sports wagering.

The sports organizations, including the National Football League and Major League Baseball, sued in August to block betting in New Jersey, saying it would raise doubts about the integrity of games.

The leagues opposed a law signed by Governor Christopher Christie, a Republican, in January 2012 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.

New Jersey has said the groups lack standing to sue because they can’t show how they would be injured by the gambling legislation.

“For purposes of standing, Plaintiffs demonstrated, at least by an identifiable trifle, that state-sanctioned gambling will adversely impact how the leagues are perceived by those who can affect their future, specifically their fans,” Shipp said in his ruling.

Four Exceptions

A 1992 federal law bans betting in all but four states: Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon. New Jersey said in a court filing that the law is unconstitutional.

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 from Jan. 1, 1993, to Jan. 1, 1994, to enact sports betting. At the time, New Jersey declined.

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.

“The NCAA has long maintained that sports wagering threatens the well-being of student-athletes and the integrity of college sports,” said Stacey Osburn, director of public and media relations, in an e-mail.

Representatives of Christie didn’t immediately return a call after regular business hours seeking comment on the ruling.

Greg Aiello, an NFL spokesman, declined to comment on the decision.

The case is National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Christie, 12-4947, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey (Trenton).

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