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Judge Halts New Jersey Law Designed to Legalize Sports Betting

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistOctober 17, 2014

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gives the American Chamber in Mexico keynote address, in Mexico City, Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014. Christie took a spin on the international stage Wednesday, bringing state business to Mexico City and testing his diplomatic savvy as he considers a run for U.S. president in 2016. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Rebecca Blackwell/Associated Press

Updates from Friday, Oct. 24

The Associated Press passed along the latest update in New Jersey's push to allow sports betting:

Updates from Monday, Oct. 20

David Purdum of ESPN.com provides the NFL and NCAA's response to the potential legalization of sports betting in New Jersey:

The NCAA, NFL and other major professional sports leagues will file for immediate injunctive relief Tuesday to prevent New Jersey from offering sports betting this weekend, according to State Sen. Raymond Lesniak.

[...]

Attorneys for the sports leagues say the state is in violation of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), the 22-year-old federal ban on state-sponsored sports betting.

According to the papers, filed Monday, the leagues view the latest bill as 'in clear and flagrant violation of federal law -- to accomplish what it unsuccessfully attempted to do three years ago: sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license or authorize gambling on amateur and professional sports at state-licensed casinos and horse racetracks. Because this effort is no more lawful than New Jersey's past ones, it, too, should be enjoined.'

Purdum continued with a statement from New Jersey State Sen. Raymond Lesniak:

It's the leagues' last hurrah to perpetuate their stranglehold over sports betting which they condone and exploit for their own benefit.

Original Text

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a law on Friday that lays the groundwork for the legalization of sports betting in the state, per Brent Johnson of NJ.com: 

The Republican governor made the move only one day after the state Assembly gave final legislative passage to the measure (S2460), which strikes provisions from New Jersey's law books that ban sports wagering.

It's the latest step in the Christie administration's years-long effort to make sports betting legal in the state and help revitalize Atlantic City, which has been hit by financial woes in recent years.

In a prepared statement, Christie said:

As I've said all along, I am a strong proponent of legalized sports wagering in New Jersey. But given earlier decisions by federal courts, it was critical that we follow a correct and appropriate path to curtail new court challenges and expensive litigation. I believe we have found that path in this bipartisan legislative effort.

Over the past few years, Christie has faced an uphill battle to get sports betting legalized in New Jersey. In August 2012, the four major American sports leagues and the NCAA filed suit against the state to prevent it from allowing sports betting in New Jersey casinos.

Then-NBA Commissioner David Stern was a particularly harsh critic of Christie's push.

"The one thing I'm certain of is New Jersey has no idea what it's doing and doesn't care because all it's interested in is making a buck or two, and they don't care that it's at our potential loss," Stern said in December 2012, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com.

Over time, attitudes have changed, especially inside the NBA.

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Adam Silver, Stern's successor, said at the Bloomberg Sports Business Summit in September that he can see the momentum behind the legalization of sports betting, and neither he nor the league will stand in the way.

BERLIN - OCTOBER 8: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver talks to the media prior to the San Antonio Spurs versus Alba Berlin game as part of the 2014 Global Games on October 8, 2014 at the O2 Arena in Berlin, Germany. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges an
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"It’s inevitable that, if all these states are broke, that there will be legalized sports betting in more states than Nevada and we will ultimately participate in that," Silver commented, per Mason Levinson and Scott Soshnick of Bloomberg.com.

Sports betting isn't yet officially legal in New Jersey. According to Johnson of NJ.com, a federal judge will have to sign off on Christie's lifting of sports gambling regulations. There's also the lawsuit filed by U.S. sports leagues in appeals court.

Wayne Parry/Associated Press

New Jersey State Sen. Raymond Lesniak believes the appeals judge will allow the state to continue with its motion.

"I think that their case is moot now that we have this bill passed following the direction of the Third Circuit court," he said, according to the NJ.com report.

Casinos are expected to wait on the final ruling from the appeals court, but Monmouth Park in Oceanport, New Jersey, will open up sports betting on October 26.

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