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In reply to leagues' attempt to stop sports betting, New Jersey cites appellate court ruling

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NEWARK, New Jersey — Claims that New Jersey's plan to allow legal sports gambling violates federal law are meritless, the state wrote in a court filing in response to efforts by four major U.S. pro sports leagues and the NCAA to stop gambling from beginning this weekend.

The state filed the response late Wednesday to the leagues' request to a federal judge earlier this week for an injunction to prevent Monmouth Park racetrack from accepting sports wagers this Sunday. The track is the only venue in the state that has said it will take bets under a law signed by Gov. Chris Christie last Friday that allows sports betting at racetracks and casinos.

The NFL, the NBA, the NHL, Major League Baseball and the NCAA filed a reply later Thursday, and U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp will decide whether oral argument is necessary. It isn't known when he will make a final decision.

In its filing, the state reiterated its contention that the language in a federal appeals court ruling last year opened the door for New Jersey to roll back its prohibitions on sports gambling and legally allow it as long as it isn't regulated by the state.

The leagues contend that it will, in fact, be state-regulated because racetracks and casinos are heavily regulated by the state and that this constitutes state-authorized sports betting — which is prohibited by a 1992 federal law. They also claim they will suffer "irreparable harm" if sports gambling is allowed in New Jersey.

New Jersey charged the leagues with seeking to have the federal government interfere in state affairs.

"Plaintiffs' claims that their multi-billion-dollar businesses will suffer irreparable damage from even short-term wagering at Monmouth Park — when similar wagering has taken place throughout the State of Nevada for more than fifty years, and to a much greater extent — are unsubstantiated and cannot be credited," the brief states.

Only Nevada currently offers single-game sports betting. Delaware and two other states are allowed to offer multi-game sports parlay pools.

In its filing Thursday afternoon, the leagues and NCAA called New Jersey's reasoning "indefensible folly" and claimed that allowing sports betting would violate New Jersey's own constitution and that federal courts have jurisdiction to intervene. They also cited a 2009 federal appeals court's decision that rejected a similar sports betting attempt by the state of Delaware.

Christie signed a sports wagering bill in early 2012 and the leagues sued later that year. The state's constitutional challenge to the 1992 federal law failed, but in September Christie ordered authorities not to prosecute racetracks and casinos for accepting sports bets, and signed amended legislation reflecting that last week.

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