08/08/2012 11:48AM

Leagues file lawsuit to stop sports betting in New Jersey

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National amateur and professional sports organizations filed a lawsuit Tuesday in New Jersey challenging the state’s plan to allow gambling on sporting contests at racetracks and casinos.

The suit claims that legislation passed earlier this year allowing for sports gambling violates a federal statute passed in 1992 that banned gambling on sports contests except in states in which it was already legal or in states that used a one-year window following the passage of the act to approve the practice. New Jersey did not act to allow gambling during that window.

Parties to the suit include the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Those organizations have consistently challenged efforts to expand sports gambling, arguing, as they do in the suit filed Tuesday, “that the outcomes of collegiate and professional athletic contests must be determined, and must be perceived by the public as being determined, solely on the basis of honest athletic competition.”

In 2009, the associations successfully challenged a law in Delaware that allowed for betting on single sports contests.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is expected to challenge the lawsuit aggressively. When the legislature passed the law, Christie had remarked that the federal government had no power to regulate gambling within state’s borders.

New Jersey’s two major racetracks, Monmouth Park and the Meadowlands, had planned to allow for sports betting at their facilities later this year, perhaps as early as November.

Dennis Drazin, president of Monmouth’s operating company, said Wednesday that the track would put aside plans to offer live-money wagering if the court grants the leagues an injunction against sports betting. However, the track will likely offer “free play” sports wagering while the suit is being resolved, Drazin said.

“We expected the leagues to take some action,” Drazin said. “The first step is whether or not injunctive relief is granted. If an injunction is granted, we can’t go forward.”

Drazin said he felt “confident we’ll prevail” in contesting the lawsuit.

At the Meadowlands, Jeff Gural, who is leasing the track from the state, said Tuesday that he would wait for the resolution of the suit before offering sports bets.

Regulations governing sports betting in New Jersey are currently in a public-comment period until Aug. 31. After the period concludes and New Jersey regulators review the rules, tracks and casinos would be eligible to seek licenses to offer sports betting.