TRENTON – Professional sports leagues pushed back in federal court Tuesday against Gov. Chris Christie and the state of New Jersey.
Lawyers representing the leagues opposed to allowing legalized sports betting in New Jersey argued the integrity of their clients’ business is at stake, saying that allowing gambling would “adversely affect” how professional games are perceived by the public, said Jeffrey Mishkin, an attorney representing the leagues suing the state.
Mishkin argued sports leagues “have made it clear for decades” that they are opposed to the threat of legalized betting, saying if the integrity of games is perceived to be compromised then the leagues’ businesses can ultimately be harmed.
“We are running a business,” said Mishkin, who argued leagues do not have to prove damages, but instead can show merely “identifiable trifle” to block legalized sports betting in the Garden State.
Attorneys representing the administration and the state argued the onus is on the leagues to demonstrate and prove identifiable injuries.
“It’s not allegations anymore,” said Theodore Olson for the state. “They have to identify concrete harm.”
Olson argued the leagues are objecting to oversight by the government regarding something that is already known to be widely accepted. “Practically everyone in America” fills out a bracket for college basketball, including the president of the United States, Olson quipped.
“Illegal gambling on the Super Bowl has made the Super Bowl the most watched [television event],” he said.
“We want to make sure it’s clean and we want to make sure it’s regulated,” Olson said. “That’s all New Jersey is trying to do … [and] they cannot even begin to show there’s harm.”
However, Mishkin argued legalizing gambling in New Jersey would not tamp down the practice, rather, he said, it would fuel gambling and ultimately expand illegal gambling.
“You’re going to create a whole new category of gambling,” said Mishkin, adding that there are “advantages” for people to gamble in the illegal market, citing the exemption from paying taxes on winnings as one example.
U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp heard the arguments in response to the NCAA and the four major professional sport leagues’ lawsuit against the administration in an effort to challenge the state’s fight to bring sports betting to the state.
Voters approved a referendum allowing a change in the state Constitution to permit sports betting in 2010 and the governor signed off on a proposal this year to pave the way for betting in New Jersey.
After the league brought suit against the state, Christie expressed confidence New Jersey would succeed in challenging the federal law that officials argue prohibits the expansion of legalized gambling.
“I don’t believe the federal government has the right to decide that only four states can have sports gambling,” Christie said in August.