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Sports betting battle heads to courtroom

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New Jersey's sports betting law gets its first test in court today, as a federal court judge hears arguments in a lawsuit brought by the four major pro sports leagues and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Gov. Chris Christie signed a law in January authorizing the state's casinos and racetracks to take sports bets, even though a federal law currently limits sports betting to four states, prompting a suit by the leagues in August. The NCAA followed that in October by moving a handful of championship events out of New Jersey in retaliation for the law's passage.

In an order last week, Judge Michael A. Shipp said Tuesday's hearing would be limited to the question of whether the plaintiffs have standing to challenge the law, rather than hearing oral arguments on the wide range of complicated issues that arise out of the case.

In its initial claim, the leagues argued their business would be irreparably harmed because sports betting would foster "suspicion that individual plays and final scores of games may have been influenced by factors other than honest athletic competition."

But the state, in its motion to dismiss, tells Shipp the leagues don't have standing to bring the case because the harm is only hypothetical.

The state noted about $3 billion is legally wagered on sports in Nevada each year, but an estimated $380 billion is wagered illegally throughout the world. But the leagues don't make any claim of harm resulting from existing sports wagering, the state said.

"Given that, there is no reason to believe that sports wagering in New Jersey will cause harm to the leagues ever, let alone the imminent, 'certainly impending' harm that the Supreme Court has required for a party to have standing to seek prospective injunctive relief," the state wrote.

Meanwhile, the Division of Gaming Enforcement is set to start issuing licenses Jan. 9, if the court doesn't step in first. New Jersey also is bringing a constitutional challenge to the federal law that bans sports betting in most states. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has until Jan. 20 to intervene in that matter. So far, he has not.

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