10/24/2014 4:18PM

Judge halts Monmouth's plan to start taking sports bets

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A federal judge has once again stepped between New Jersey and its plan to let state racetracks and casinos offer sports betting.

Judge Michael Shipp of the U.S. District Court in Trenton on Friday granted a request for injunction filed by major sports leagues that will prevent any New Jersey entity from offering sports betting until the leagues’ challenge of a recent law is heard. Shipp was one of two federal judges who had earlier struck down the state’s plan to offer betting last year, calling it a violation of federal law.

Although a recent directive by Gov. Chris Christie said that any of the state’s racetracks and casinos could offer sports betting without being prosecuted by state law enforcement, Monmouth Park in Oceanport has been the only entity in New Jersey that has announced any plans to start taking bets on sporting contests. The plan was to open the track’s sports book Sunday.

“While we are disappointed not to be able to start this Sunday, we are confident that sports betting will be coming to New Jersey in the very near future,” said Dennis Drazin, the head of the company that leases Monmouth from the state, in a statement distributed by the track. “We have prepared for this event for quite some time and have stated from the onset that we will be ready on Day 1. While that won’t be this Sunday, we remain committed to that promise and will be operational as soon as possible.”

The request for injunction was filed by the NBA, NFL, NHL, Major League Baseball, and the NCAA. The leagues have argued that sports betting in the state would violate a federal ban, an opinion that was upheld twice in the case litigated last year.

After the state lost its appeal of the case in 2013, Christie issued the directive and the legislature passed another bill lifting state prohibitions on sports betting. Legal experts have called the strategy unusual since it does not address the federal ban on the practice.