Lawyers are scheduled to argue in court next month on whether the federal ban on sports betting in some states is constitutional.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Shipp has set Feb. 14 as the date when he will hear constitutional arguments from New Jersey and the NCAA and four professional sports leagues suing to block the start of sports betting in the state. The hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. in Trenton.
Shipp previously has ruled the NCAA, NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB would be harmed if New Jersey were to press forward with plans to authorize sports wagering in the state, citing studies, including a 2007 one from the NBA that showed that 17 percent of those surveyed would spend less money on the league if a franchise were situated in Las Vegas. As a result of the potential for harm, the leagues have standing to sue New Jersey and block the state from allowing casinos and racetracks to offer sports betting, Shipp said.
The judge, however, has not yet ruled on New Jersey's constitutional challenge of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, and will hear arguments from both sides during the February hearing.
New Jersey's lawyers have argued PASPA is unconstitutional because it "commandeers" legislative power from some states and not others. PASPA prohibits states from authorizing sports betting except where it was legal prior to the legislation's passage in 1992, namely in Nevada. The leagues argue Congress passed the bill because it believed the spread of sports betting to other states would be harmful.
Due to the constitutional questions, the U.S. Attorney's Office also has been asked whether it wants to weigh in on the issue. The U.S. Attorney has until Jan. 20 to decide whether to intervene. No decision has been made on the matter, according to the Department of Justice.
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