NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Supporters of legalized sports betting in New Jersey won a victory Wednesday when an appeals court voted to reconsider an earlier ruling against the state.
That means an August ruling that struck down a law allowing sports betting at casinos and racetracks is vacated, and the full 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia will hear the case.
It’s the latest development in a more than three-year court battle that began when the four major pro sports leagues and the National Collegiate Athletic Association sued New Jersey as the state prepared to start offering legal sports gambling.
Currently, only Nevada offers betting on individual games, and Delaware offers multigame parlay betting in which players must pick several games correctly to win. Hundreds of billions of dollars are bet illegally on sports annually.
State Sen. Ray Lesniak, D-Elizabeth, who has been leading the charge to legalize sports betting in the Garden State, told WCBS 880’s Levon Putney that Tuesday’s decision is a good sign.
“We already have two judges on our side,” he said. “We’re picking up speed. Momentum is on our side.”
Lesniak is hoping sports betting will help boost Atlantic City’s struggling casinos and racetracks.
Several court rulings in the New Jersey case have sided with the leagues and NCAA in holding that New Jersey’s law repealing prohibitions against sports gambling amounts to state authorization, which conflicts with a 1992 federal law.
The state argued that two 2-1 rulings by the 3rd Circuit, one in 2013 and the other in August, offer opposing interpretations, making the issue unresolved.
In its petition for a rehearing, attorneys for the state noted that 3rd Circuit Judge Julio Fuentes wrote in his dissent from the August ruling that the two decisions are “precisely the opposite.” The first held that New Jersey could repeal laws against sports betting without violating federal law, while the second held that doing so would violate it.
In an earlier iteration of the case, the 3rd Circuit declined New Jersey’s request in 2013 for the full circuit to rehear the case, called an en banc hearing.
The leagues and NCAA, in addition to arguing that federal law prohibits New Jersey’s actions, have said that expanding legal sports gambling will compromise the integrity of their games and lead to more incidences of game-fixing.
Sports betting supporters have called the leagues’ stance hypocritical, saying the leagues condone and profit from sports fantasy leagues in which participants assemble rosters of players from different teams and compete against others.
This week, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and Rep. Frank Pallone urged the government to investigate fantasy sports websites after allegations of insider trading at some of the companies.
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