Justice Department Joins New Jersey Sportsbetting Lawsuit

Written By Janice Doughtrey

New Jersey attracted heavier opposition than it initially expected when it legalized sportsbetting at the state’s racetracks and Atlantic City casinos.  The US Department of Justice has joined a lawsuit against the Garden State that was launched by North America’s four major sports leagues along with the NCAA.  New Jersey says it is disappointed federal justice has gotten involved, but refuses to revoke its new amendments.

New Jersey says a 1992 federal law that bans sportsbetting in all but four states – Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana – is unconstitutional, and takes revenue away from the remaining states.  New Jersey voters approved the 2011 referendum on sportsbetting laws, and the state legislature passed the bill near the end of last year.  Governor Chris Christie signed the bill into law last January, and anticipated opposition from special interest groups – though refused to bow to external pressure.

“If someone wants to stop us, then let them try to stop us.”

The major sports leagues took action last summer against the New Jersey state legislature by filing a lawsuit against the state sportsbetting laws.  The leagues argue that the status quo works, and allowing an increasing frequency of sportsbetting activity would threaten player safety as well as damage the integrity of the leagues.  The US Justice Department meanwhile, says its decision to join the lawsuit is due to New Jersey violating the 1992 federal provisions.

However, the New Jersey state legislature says it is naïve of the leagues to deny that illegal sportsbetting already takes place on offshore domains.  Lawmakers believe increasing security surrounding sportsbetting activity will reduce the influx of illegal traffic, significantly damaging revenue streams for criminal organizations and providing new revenues for the ailing Atlantic City casinos.

The legal challenge is expected to draw out for years in the courts, and with the Justice Department involved that timeframe could extend even further.