New Jersey asks federal appeals court to OK sports betting

By Larry Hartstein | Senior Analyst

New Jersey made its case for legal sports betting before a federal appeals court Wednesday.

Former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson told the three-judge panel in Philadelphia that a 1992 law limiting sports betting to Nevada and three other states discriminates against New Jersey and the other 45 states, according to the Associated Press.

Olson compared the law to the Voting Rights Act the Supreme Court partially struck down Tuesday, the AP reported.

The appeal came about after a federal judge, siding with the four major pro sports leagues and the NCAA, blocked the sports betting law New Jersey passed last year. The law would allow sports betting in Atlantic City's dozen casinos and the state's four horse tracks.

New Jersey residents voted overwhelmingly for sports betting in a 2011 referendum.

Asked by the three-judge panel whether betting has tarnished sports and led to scandals, Olson said New Jersey wants to “shine a light on that activity” by opening the books and protecting potential victims, the AP reported.

Paul Clement, another former U.S. solicitor general who represents the sports leagues, said the dynamics of sports change when betting is allowed, according to the AP.

"They're our games, after all, and we have a legitimate interest in controlling whether these games are going to be sporting events and not gambling events," Clement said, via the AP.

A ruling isn't expected for at least three months.

If the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges rule against the state, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has promised to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Many state officials view sports betting as the only way to turn around Atlantic City, which has lost $2 billion in casino revenue since 2006.

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