Sports Betting Case in New Jersey Draws U.S. Intervention

The U.S. government asked to take part in a lawsuit over a New Jersey sports-betting law that professional and collegiate leagues say would cast doubt on the integrity of the games.

The U.S. filed a request today in federal court in Trenton, New Jersey, to intervene in a lawsuit by the National Collegiate Athletic Association and several professional sports organizations to stop the law from taking effect. The U.S. is seeking to defend the constitutionality of a 1992 federal law restricting sports gambling, according to today’s filing.

The New Jersey law, signed by Republican Governor Chris Christie in January 2012, would permit wagering on professional and college sports at racetracks and Atlantic City casinos.

By a conservative estimate, legalized sports gambling could generate $1 billion in bets and as much as $100 million in new revenue for the state in its first year, William J. Pascrell III, a lead lobbyist for the measure, said in an interview.

Sports organizations including the National Football League and Major League Baseball sued New Jersey’s government in August to block betting in the state. The National Hockey League, National Basketball Association and NCAA joined the complaint.

“The leagues’ challenge is the ultimate in hypocrisy,” Pascrell, of the Princeton Public Affairs Group Inc., said in a phone interview. They would be “major beneficiaries of regulated, legalized sports betting,” he said.

Four States

The 1992 federal law bans sports betting in all but four states: Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon. New Jersey said in a court filing that the law is unconstitutional. Arguments are scheduled in the case on Feb. 14, according to today’s filing.

“We are pleased that the DOJ has intervened in this lawsuit to ensure states are complying with federal law,” Donald Remy, the NCAA’s general counsel, in an e-mailed statement forwarded by a spokeswoman.

Representatives from Christie’s press office and Matt Bourne of MLB didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on the U.S. intervention bid. Brian McCarthy of the NFL declined to comment. Rick Pendrick of the NBA had no immediate comment. Frank Brown of the NHL declined to comment and referred to the league’s filings in the case.

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

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