In a move designed to circumvent the federal law that prohibits state-sanctioned sports gambling in all but four states, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie issued a directive earlier this month that would allow fans to wager on sporting events in New Jersey, so long as the gambling was not regulated by the state.
On Monday, the four major professional sports leagues and the NCAA, as expected, filed a legal challenge that asks a U.S. District Court judge to prohibit such a move, the Associated Press reports.
“Defendants’ latest arguments are nothing more than a blatant attempt to circumvent this Court’s injunction and the federal law that it prohibits defendants from violating,” the leagues wrote.
In 2011, voters in New Jersey overwhelmingly voted in favor of a referendum that would establish state-sponsored sports gambling, and Christie signed a law allowing it in 2012. But Major League Baseball, the NBA, NHL, NFL and NCAA challenged its legality in federal court, which agreed that New Jersey’s proposal would violate a 1992 federal law called Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act that limits state-sanctioned sports gambling to Nevada, Oregon, Delaware and Montana.
New Jersey petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, but it declined in June. Christie then issued his directive in early September.
A ruling on Christie’s latest move is expected quickly. “U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp, whose injunction sided with the leagues in upholding the federal ban last year, is expected to rule in Trenton by next week on the matter,” the AP writes.
New Jersey’s racetracks and casinos are eagerly waiting for clarity on the matter. Sports gambling is seen as a way for Atlantic City’s hard-hit casinos to compete for business with newer casinos in neighboring states. Four Atlantic City casinos have closed this year, and a fifth — the Trump Taj Mahal — has said it will close Nov. 13 if it doesn’t receive significant concessions from the casino workers’ labor union.
The NBA’s involvement in the latest legal finding is somewhat puzzling, considering Commissioner Adam Silver’s recent comments that appeared to anticipate the league’s future involvement in legalized sports gambling. “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 said earlier this month at a sports business summit in New York.