US DOJ wants in New Jersey's legal battle for sportsbooks

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Gov. Christie speaks at a press conference

The US Department of Justice isn't sitting on the sidelines for the professional sports leagues and the NCAA's pending legal battle with New Jersey over sportsbooks. Did anyone really expect the DOJ to ride the bench in a case that promises to change the landscape of gambling in the US for years to come?

DOJ lawyers filed a notice with the US District Court in Trenton earlier today requesting to intervene in the lawsuit, and to make oral arguments when court resumes in three weeks.

The case is being officiated by District Judge Michael Shipp, who issued a ruling SBR reported on last month. Shipp rejected the state's argument that the sports leagues would be unable to prove financial harm if there were sportsbook wagering in Atlantic City.

An untold number of Americans already circumvent existing legislation on some level to wager; be it by placing a bet with a local bookie, gambling offshore via the internet, or participating in an organized office pool. New Jersey intends to give these people a safe way to make a bet and have the assurance of being paid if it wins.

New Jersey is asking for the same piece of the pie afforded to Nevada. New Jersey wants a surefire way to rake in millions of dollars by allowing their residents as well as tourists the chance to wager on professional sports in an aboveboard manner. Nevada isn't the teacher's pet, if the teacher in this case was the US Government. The reason Nevada is able to license sportsbooks is that federal statute PASPA (The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992) outlaws sports betting across the nation with the exceptions of Nevada, Oregon, Delaware, and Montana. Nevada is the primary beneficiary of the exemption, while Delaware now accepts parlay-style wagering.

The sports leagues want New Jersey to shut up and walk away. They don't care about the constitutionality of PASPA any more than they do global warming. They care, or pretend to care, about public perception of their games. If the public believed game outcomes were influenced by players who might stand to benefit based on their performance or lack thereof, ticket sales would go down. Television ratings and ad revenue would be the next to plummet, right after the bonuses of the league commissioners. The leagues will tell you their primary concern is protecting the sanctity of their games, but as in all major conflicts the dispute comes down to one thing and one thing only - money.

Unlike other first world countries that embrace gambling culture, the US remains influenced by very powerful people that liken gambling to pure evil, a pastime that wrecks families, corrupts minors and erodes the fabric of society. This current battle is one that many lawmakers and politicians would shy away from, as the positions taken by them now will surely follow them well into their professional future. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie isn't having any of that.

The outspoken Gov. has been branded as many things but being timid has never been one of them. Speaking defiantly at a press conference in May, Christie roared the following: "If someone wants to stop us, then let them try to stop us. Am I expecting there may be legal action taken against us to try to prevent it? Yes. But I have every confidence we're going to be successful."

Christie is a former US Attorney himself, serving the district of NJ from 2002-2008. He's also got the benefit of State Senator Raymond Lesniak in his foxhole. Lesniak, who SBR interviewed twice, has been one of the loudest voices in NJ for an expanded gambling culture. "Once we get sports betting, other states will follow suit, and when that happens the only place the NCAA will be able to have their championships is in the state of Utah, and I don't think they want to do that," quipped Lesniak.

Oral arguments will be given by all parties on February 14th.

Check Sportsbook for additional updates.

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