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Lesniak: Leagues 'took the bait' when filing sports betting suit

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After hearing word that various professional organizations filed a lawsuit Tuesday in federal court to stop New Jersey from pursuing legalizing betting on sports, state Sen. Raymond J. Lesniak (D-Union) said they're playing right into the state's hand.

"They took the bait," he said. "This is what we were expecting and hoping for. The sooner we get into court, the sooner New Jersey residents are going to be able to enjoy sports betting at our casinos and racetracks."

This morning, lawyers for the NHL, NFL, NBA, MLB and NCAA filed suit that contends that, by passing the sports gambling law and opening the regulations up for public comment, Gov. Chris Christie; David Rebuck, director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement; and Frank Zanzuccki, executive director of the New Jersey Racing Commission, are in violation of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.

Lesniak said the state would have had to wait until it issued a sports betting license to a casino or racetrack to challenge the federal law, had the sports leagues not filed suit. He said getting into court now prevents the state from having to invest in infrastructure before the legality is determined.

Dennis Drazin, operator of the Monmouth Park racetrack and a vocal supporter of sports betting, said the lawsuit "is not unanticipated, and we're prepared to litigate the issue, and we believe we will eventually be successful."

"It's been known from the very beginning that the process of legalizing sports gaming in New Jersey is going to be a very heavy lift," said Israel Posner, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton College, adding that the NCAA and the professional sports organizations have long opposed New Jersey opening up sports books.

Posner said, though, that the lawsuit is unlikely to speed the process of implementing sports gaming. The federal government and states will have to deal with regulating Internet gaming before tackling sports gambling.

"Sports gaming has to be looked at within that context," Posner said. "They're not independent — they connect."

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