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Lesniak: NFL is hypocritical in its opposition to N.J. sports betting

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State Sen. Raymond Lesniak calls out the NFL for being hypocritical in its opposition to N.J. sports betting.
State Sen. Raymond Lesniak calls out the NFL for being hypocritical in its opposition to N.J. sports betting. - (AARON HOUSTON)

State Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) went on the offensive Tuesday, saying that the National Football League’s opposition to New Jersey’s ongoing efforts to bring sports betting to the state is hypocritical, given that the league embraces “pay-to-play” fantasy football.

Fantasy football, which allows online users to manage hypothetical NFL rosters and compete against others, often in pursuit of a cash prize, is seen as a form of gaming in some states, Lesniak said.

“If there was a penalty for hypocrisy, then we should throw the flag on the NFL,” Lesniak said. “The league has gone to extreme lengths to stop New Jersey from the very same behavior in which it now wants to engage. They of all people should understand that when you play the game everyone has to follow the same rules.”

According to Lesniak, the NFL is the first major American sports league to offer a pay-to-play version of the game and its structure “clearly resembles” that of an organized gaming entity. It will be prohibited in seven states due to local law violations, Lesniak added.

In 2012, the NFL joined Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, the National Basketball Association and the National Collegiate Athletic Association in filing a lawsuit against New Jersey seeking to prevent the state from legalizing sports betting. The leagues said the move would have violated the 1992 federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, an argument federal courts later concurred with.

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“It appears the NFL’s scruples extend as far as its bottom line,” Lesniak said. “If the $9 billion they make every year isn’t enough for them, as well as their federal tax breaks, at least they can be honest about it and not stop New Jersey and our residents from benefiting as well.”

Lesniak has since pledged to circumvent PASPA by proposing the state legalize sports wagering but not regulate it, a move he believes would skirt the federal law’s reach.

“Will the NFL again take us to court?” Lesniak said. “If they do, they will have no self respect. And this time, they will lose.”

The NFL did not immediately return an emailed request for comment.

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Andrew George

Andrew George

Andrew George covers the Statehouse from NJBIZ's Trenton bureau. Born and raised in N.J., Andrew has also spent time as a reporter in D.C., Texas and Pa. His email is andrewg@njbiz.com and he is @AndrGeorge on Twitter.

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