01/23/2013 1:03PM

U.S. Department of Justice to challenge New Jersey's sports betting law

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The U.S. Department of Justice has told a New Jersey court that it intends to intervene in a case challenging the constitutionality of a law passed in the state authorizing betting on sports, according to paperwork filed by the department Tuesday.

The department will join a coalition of sports leagues in challenging the law, bringing the weight of the federal government to bear on the case. In the filing, the department said that it intends to “intervene in this action to defend the constitutionality of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act,” a 1992 federal law prohibiting betting on sports in any jurisdiction that did not allow the practice prior to 1991.

A department spokesperson declined to comment on the case Wednesday.

The New Jersey law would limit sports-betting operations to racetracks and casinos. Officials at Monmouth Park and the Meadowlands have said they plan to open sports-betting operations if the state prevails in the case.

New Jersey’s attorney general is expected to argue that the 1992 federal act is unconstitutional because it carved out exceptions for some states and infringes on states’ rights.

Several years ago, Delaware passed a law authorizing sports betting, and it was immediately challenged by the country’s college and professional sports leagues. A U.S. appeals court judge ultimately ruled that Delaware could only offer three-team parlay bets, citing a 1976 lottery game the state offered tied to the results of three sports games. Any other game would violate the 1992 act, the judge ruled.

New Jersey did not allow any kind of sports betting prior to 1991.