NEWARK, N.J.

- A judge has cleared the way for the four major pro sports leagues and the NCAA to move forward with their legal fight against New Jersey's plan to allow sports gambling.

That comes after a judge on Friday rejected arguments that the leagues couldn't prove they would be harmed if the state proceeds 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 have standing to file the suit because expanding

legal sports betting to New Jersey would negatively affect 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, telling The Associated Press on 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 voicemail for a MLB spokesman was full and would not accept messages.