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Lawmaker: With sports betting sidelined, state losing out on Super windfall

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With New Jersey's sports betting law getting sidelined by a judge on Thursday, a much-anticipated windfall from the state's hosting of the 2014 Super Bowl is now riding the pine, also.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael A. Shipp issued a ruling late Thursday upholding the 20-year-old federal law that limits sports betting to four states, and ordering New Jersey to cease implementation of the sports betting law signed by Gov. Chris Christie last year.

Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), a leading champion of the bill, said the ruling virtually guarantees there won't be sports betting in New Jersey when the state hosts the Super Bowl next year. Proponents of sports betting had hoped the combination of hosting the game and taking bets would prove a financial boon for the state.

"That's not going to happen, unfortunately," he said. "There will be another Super Bowl after next year's, and I want to keep fighting for this."

In his ruling, Shipp rejected an argument by the state that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 is unconstitutional because it gives four states privileges not extended to the rest of the country — in this case, sports betting.

Shipp noted those four exceptions were made because the states in question already allowed sports betting, and thus were grandfathered in. PASPA gave New Jersey a one-year window to institute sports betting, but lawmakers here chose not to.

Shipp said Congress's evaluation of the issue "is not to be substituted by the court." He said Congress was within its rights to determine "that all such sports gambling is harmful," while also deciding not to apply the law retroactively.

Raymond Lesniak

Lesniak had strong words regarding Shipp's claim that striking down the sports betting law would cause "no hardship" to befall New Jersey.

"In essence, the entrance of a permanent injunction will do nothing more than require that New Jersey comply with federal law," Shipp wrote.

Lesniak said that's nonsense.

"It's harming us every day," he said. "All the judge had to do was go to Las Vegas during Super Bowl week or Final Four weekend and try to get a room there, and then go to Atlantic City, where he can get any room in any hotel, and he'd see first-hand what harm this is causing to state of New Jersey."

The ruling could impose a significant financial strain on the state's race tracks and casinos, which would have been allowed to take sports bets had the law been allowed to stand. Backers of the law predicted it would potentially bring hundreds of millions of dollars of new revenue to the state.

Shipp's decision came just two days after Christie signed a law allowing online gaming in the state. However, the online gaming law only lets casinos - not race tracks - set up Internet wagering operations. 

The state is expected to appeal.

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