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NJ Preparing for another Legal Battle over Sports Betting in the State

Oct 22, 2014 - by Monica Erdei
NJ professional sports leagues seeking a temporary injunction to stop local gambling venues from opening sportsbooks

NJ professional sports leagues against gambling venues opening sportsbooks

New Jersey residents might have to wait a while longer before they can place bets on sports and horse races in the state.

With Governor Chris Christie approving a new gambling bill and rumors of the Taj Mahal closing later in November, New Jersey continues to be at the centre of attention in the US. At the end of last week, state authorities gave casinos and racetracks the green light to start accepting bets, but professional sports leagues have challenged the decision in court.

Monmouth Park is prepared to start taking bets at the racetrack this Sunday, but punters might have to wait a while longer because the country’s four professional sports leagues and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) have filed a lawsuit on Monday, seeking a temporary injunction to stop local gambling venues from opening sports books.

On the other hand, industry representatives argue that allowing sports betting in the state could help thousands of former Atlantic City casino employees find a new job.

NY Times: Sports Betting in New Jersey Is Challenged

For a while now, New Jersey has been trying to come up with ways to circumvent a 1992 federal law banning state regulators from handing out sports betting licenses. Last week, an important step has been taken in that direction after Governor Chris Christie signed the new gambling law partially repealing the statewide sports wagering ban. But then came the bad news: professional leagues are seeking an injunction from Judge Michael A. Shipp of Federal District Court.

New Jersey’s first sports book is schedules to have a soft opening this Sunday at Monmouth Park. The racetrack’s operators said they’re planning to have 10 tellers take bets, only on the National Football League for now, all by hand. Both the track’s managers and state leaders expect thousands of people lining up to place their bets on football Sundays.

Dennis Drazin, a legal adviser for Monmouth Park, told reporters: “As we speak, we are geared up to start taking bets.” Lawyers representing the NCAA, the National Basketball Association, the National Football League, the National Hockey League and the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball declined to make any comments at this point.

The challenge argues that New Jersey has tried this trick three years ago, when attempts to legalize gambling on amateur and professional sports failed. “Because this effort is no more lawful than New Jersey’s past ones, it, too, should be enjoined,” lawyers wrote in the complaint.

On the other hand, State Senator Raymond J. Lesniak said: “I have a hard time believing that a judge will determine that the leagues can prove they can be irreparably damaged by Monmouth racetrack’s taking bets, when people are betting every single day legally in Nevada,” adding that sports associations are looking to secure a monopoly.

USA Today: NFL, other leagues move to stop N.J. sports betting plan

In the complained filed earlier this week, the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and the NCAA said New Jersey was “in clear and flagrant violation of federal law.” Attorneys representing the leagues are expected to ask the judge for a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction, to prevent local businesses from taking bets.

According to track consultant Dennis Drazin, Monmouth Park is planning to take bets on sports scores as early as October 26, during the Jets-Bills game, as well as for other NFL match-ups scheduled for Sunday. The operator is likely to add a $100 bet limit for the first day. Records will initially be kept by hand, and the track expects 5,000 customers to rush to the bookies this Sunday.

“We won’t be able to have everything set up electronically for 3 or 4 weeks,” Drazin explained. “My own take on this is the people have been clamoring for this for so long that we want to introduce them to it even if you can’t do it full scale just yet.’”

Legal analysts said it’s hard to predict if all this will actually happen on Sunday.

“The leagues loaded up their complaint with buzzwords to paint a picture of immediate and irreparable harm to the plaintiffs if bets start being taken, and they’ve won injunctive relief in the past,” gaming attorney Christopher Soriano said.

According to Drazin, the track could earn as much as $1 billion per year from sports betting, giving the state’s gambling industry a much needed boost.

Philadelphia Business Journal: Hundreds file for unemployment after casino closures

Atlantic City saw its last wave of casino workers filing for unemployment at the beginning of September, following the closure of two casinos over Labor Day weekend. More than 5,000 employees lost their jobs in the process.

An assistance center was set up at the Atlantic City Convention Center, and officials from the state Department of Labor and union representatives from Local 54 of Unite-HERE were there to offer them help in filing for unemployment. They were also given information on how to sign up for health insurance.

“We’re working every day to create solutions,” Mayor Don Guardian told reporters. “As a city that cares about its residents first, we want you to know what steps we’re taking to assist in transitioning individuals losing jobs.”

Officials added that laid-off workers would be getting all the necessary training “to help ensure [they] have a smooth, quick transition to new employment.”

Job-training initiatives will be held at the Atlantic Cape Community College, aiming to train up to 1,200 employees every year. Officials plan to open a job placement center by October, assisting all Atlantic City residents.

Atlantic City started the year with 12 casinos, but their number has dropped to just eight by mid-September.

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