NEWARK, N.J. - Four major professional sports leagues and the NCAA are poised to move forward with their legal fight over New Jersey's plans to allow sports gambling.
That comes after a judge on Friday rejected arguments that the leagues could not prove they would be harmed if the state proceeded with the plans.
In denying the state's request to dismiss the lawsuit by the NBA, NHL, NFL, Major League Baseball, and the NCAA, U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp agreed that they had standing to file the suit because expanding legal sports betting to New Jersey would harm perception of their games.
In his ruling, Shipp cited studies offered by the leagues that showed fans' negative attitudes toward game-fixing and sports gambling.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy declined to comment on the ruling, saying Saturday that "the decision speaks for itself."
Stacey Osburn, director of public and media relations for the NCAA, said the association was "pleased with the court's ruling. The NCAA has long maintained that sports wagering threatens the well-being of student-athletes and the integrity of college sports."
Phone messages left Saturday for officials with the NBA and NHL were not immediately returned. A voice-mail folder for an MLB spokesman was full and would not accept messages.
New Jersey also has argued in court papers that a 1990s law prohibiting sports gambling in all but four states was unconstitutional, and Shipp said a date for oral argument on that issue would be set after Jan. 20.
The federal law prohibited sports gambling in all states but Nevada, where bettors can gamble on single games, and three other states that were allowed to offer multi-game parlay betting. New Jersey has argued the law usurps the authority of state legislatures and discriminates by "grandfathering" in some states.
Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D., N.J.), who has worked in the U.S. House to change the federal law, decried Shipp's decision.
"It is absurd for the professional sports leagues and the NCAA to claim that they will suffer injuries as a result of the legalization of sports betting in New Jersey," Pallone said Saturday.
"That these organizations claim that the sports they represent will somehow have their reputation impacted is naive at best and assumes that illegal gambling is not currently occurring in lieu of legal sports betting."
The leagues filed suit in August after Gov. Christie vowed to defy a federal ban on sports wagering. The governor signed a sports-betting law in January, limiting bets to the Atlantic City casinos and the state's horse-racing tracks.
New Jersey has said it plans to license sports betting as soon as January, and in October it published regulations governing licenses. But the state agreed to give the leagues 30 days' notice before it grants any licenses and has not done so, the state Attorney General's Office said last week.
None of the dozen Atlantic City casinos have applied for such licenses. Several say the uncertainty of defying the federal ban on sports betting and what the implications would be, including the potential loss of their gaming licenses, was a concern.