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New Jersey Decriminalizes Sports Betting At Casinos And Racetracks

Sports betting is illegal in all but four U.S. states. New Jersey is hoping to be the fifth.

New Jersey’s acting attorney general issued a directive last week telling the state’s casinos and racetracks that they are free to take sports bets without fear of state reprisal. The catch is wagering on college sports games in New Jersey or involving in-state college teams anywhere is banned.

Trouble is, federal law still outlaws sports betting. That’s because of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act that passed in 1992.

The law allows sports lotteries in Delaware, Oregon, Montana and licensed race and sports books in Nevada. New Jersey was given a one-year window of opportunity to prepare and pass legislation permitting sports betting, but state lawmakers and gaming officials missed a Jan. 1, 1993 deadline.

Gov. Chris Christie is attempting to exploit a loophole in the law to benefit his state’s troubled casinos. Voters in New Jersey approved sports betting by a wide margin in 2011.

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State lawmakers then enacted a law to allow sports betting and Christie signed it into law in 2012. But major sports leagues and the NCAA sued New Jersey saying it violated federal law, and won in federal court. But in ruling against New Jersey, the court last year said the state wouldn’t be prohibited from repealing its own ban on sports betting.

Legal sports betting in New Jersey is expected to begin in October, according to Forbes magazine. Monmouth Park race track said it would offer sports betting as early as Sunday, but now says it will wait 45 days. By then, the states expects to have a ruling on its motion to clarify the courts ruling from February 2013.


I Nelson Rose, law professor Whittier Law School

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