The major professional sports leagues and the NCAA say New Jersey's proposed sports betting law is hypocritical because it prohibits gambling on New Jersey college games yet allows it on all other college and pro contests.
The NCAA, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, National Basketball Association and National Hockey League are collectively suing to block New Jersey's sports betting law from taking effect; the state says it could take bets as soon as December.
In their response to New Jersey's efforts to have the case dismissed, the leagues note New Jersey says sports betting won't harm the pro or college leagues. Yet the leagues say the state forbids gambling involving New Jersey college teams or any college game played in New Jersey.
"Notwithstanding defendants' insistence that the state's gambling scheme will have no adverse effect on the sports organizations, the state has exempted the sporting events of its own college and university teams, as well as all collegiate sporting events held within new Jersey, from the very gambling that defendants now insist will cause no injury," the sports leagues wrote in paperwork filed in U.S. District Court late Monday.
"Nowhere in their brief do defendants attempt to explain why New Jersey has singled out its own teams and sporting events for protection from injuries that purportedly do not exist," the leagues wrote.
New Jersey enacted a sports betting law in January, limiting bets to the Atlantic City casinos and the state's horse racing tracks, It is seen by supporters as a way to bring new revenue to the struggling casino and racing industries, and reclaim a portion of the billions of untaxed dollars flowing to organized crime or offshore gambling operations.
In May, Gov. Chris Christie said New Jersey would forge ahead with its sports betting law, despite a federal ban on legalized sports gambling in all but four states.
"We intend to go forward," the Republican governor said at the time. "If someone wants to stop us, then let them try to stop us."
In its motion last month to dismiss the leagues' lawsuit, New Jersey said an estimated $380 billion a year is wagered illegally on sporting events.
"The leagues' complaint alleges no facts that would suggest that this nearly half-trillion-dollar pre-existing industry has harmed the reputation or goodwill of the leagues," New Jersey wrote in court papers. "Given that, there is no reason to believe that sports wagering in New Jersey will cause harm to the leagues ever."
The state Attorney General's Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the leagues' latest court filing. But state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, the most vocal proponent of the sports betting law, termed the sports leagues' position "the pot calling the kettle black."
Lesniak said the federal law at the heart of the dispute, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, carved out special exemptions for Nevada and three other states that had legalized sports betting before a 1991 deadline — Delaware, Oregon and Montana.
The leagues also claim New Jersey is barking up the wrong tree in its efforts to get sports betting implemented, suggesting it should take its fight to Congress — which passed the federal law banning it — and not the federal court system.