New Jersey fights for sports betting on Valentine's Day

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Atlantic City at night, New Jersey

There is no better way to spend Valentine's Day than inside Trenton federal court. Just ask the major sports leagues, US Justice Department and New Jersey attorneys. The three sides met and gave oral arguments in front of District Court Judge Michael Shipp related to the constitutionality of a federal statute preventing the state from accepting sports wagers in Atlantic City.

The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 ("PASPA") outlaws sports betting nationwide with the exceptions of Nevada, Oregon, Delaware, and Montana. Nevada is the single largest beneficiary under the legislation, operating a virtual sports monopoly in the desert.

New Jersey's argument is that the dated legislation is unconstitutional. Nevada is raking in heaps of cash that NJ politicians, economists, taxpayers, and even busboys understand represent potential revenue for the Garden State; a state which already attracts tourists eager to visit its casino strip in Atlantic City.

The argument is a good one. US Attorney Paul Fishman, cast into the fray by the Justice Department to defend PASPA, conceded this by addressing the financial benefit New Jerseyans envision:

"As a taxpayer, in some ways I'm attracted by that. But that's not the point. The question is not whether gambling is a good policy choice for New Jersey or that the Legislature didn't act in good faith. It's that Congress and the president decided 20 years ago that the spread of legal gambling on college and professional sports is a bad idea and bad for the country" stated Fishman.

Theodore Olson, representing New Jersey, also scored with a good blow: "The government, through PASPA, has chosen to thrust the unwelcome burden of regulating sports gambling on the states. If it isn't going to do so, it can't instruct the states not to do it or else abandon it to Nevada or organized crime."

If someone wants to stop us, then let them try to stop us.Gov. ChristieOlson raises a good point. New Jerseyans are faced with the following options: Book a trip west any time they get an itch to make a wager, find a local bookmaker who may or may not be connected to a criminal organization, gamble offshore via the internet, or refrain entirely from enjoying the same freedom offered to millions of others in other countries. The options share the following in common: Each brings zero dollars to New Jersey.

New Jersey voters are clearly on board with bringing sports gambling to their backyard, passing a sports betting referendum in 2011. Governor Chris Christie has signaled that he intends to make their wish come true, speaking defiantly at a press conference of the opposition he was sure would follow: "If someone wants to stop us, then let them try to stop us."

Judge Michael Shipp is scheduled to rule on the case within two weeks, though many expect the party is just getting started. The sports betting case, which will prove historic one way or another, has court of appeals and possibly Supreme Court written all over it.

*Credit to HuffingtonPost for courtroom quotes used.

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