The four major sports leagues and the NCAA sought an injunction in federal court Monday against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) to stop sports betting in the state.
Christie signed a bill Friday legalizing sports betting, and Monmouth Park Racetrack has said it plans to begin offering it Sunday. The NBA, NCAA, NFL, NHL, and MLB, which have opposed the state’s previous efforts to legalize sports betting, argued in their complaint the bill is a “flagrant violation of federal law.”
“For years, New Jersey has been attempting to devise a way to get around these unambiguous prohibitions and authorize sports gambling in Atlantic City casinos and horse racetracks throughout the state,” the complaint reads.
In August, Christie vetoed two bills that would have legalized sports betting, saying although he supported it, there were steps the state needed to take to not violate a federal law that prohibited the practice everywhere but Nevada, Montana, Oregon and Delaware. Last month, Christie said casinos could begin offering sports betting, although none has, and the leagues filed a motion against him.
The bill Christie signed Friday was characterized by his office as reinforcing last month’s directive, while the leagues argue it violates New Jersey’s constitution, “which requires any gambling to be specifically authorized by the legislature.”
Christie said the bill was a way for the state to legalize sports betting while avoiding litigation.
“As I’ve said all along, I am a strong proponent of legalized sports wagering in New Jersey,” Christie said in a statement. “But given earlier decisions by federal courts, it was critical that we follow a correct and appropriate path to curtail new court challenges and expensive litigation. I believe we have found that path in this bipartisan legislative effort.”
State lawmakers hope sports betting will help revive New Jersey’s sagging gambling industry. A third of Atlantic City’s casinos have closed this year.
Frank Zanzuccki, executive director of the New Jersey Racing Commission, the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, and the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority are also named as defendants in the lawsuit.