It will be a crowded courtroom next week in Trenton as lawyers convene for the first time before a U.S. District Court judge tasked with deciding whether New Jersey can offer sports betting despite a federal ban.
Lawyers representing the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association as well as Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Cumberland, Gloucester, Salem, and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, D-Essex, Passaic, received approval Tuesday to be named as co-defendants in the suit. That means they will appear in support of Gov. Chris Christie and state regulators who are being sued by five amateur and professional sports organizations.
The NCAA, NBA, NFL, NHL and Office of Major League Baseball filed the suit earlier this year, citing New Jersey’s violation of the federal Professional Amateur Sports Protection Act. The ban limits sports betting to states that authorized sports betting prior to the act’s passage in 1992. New Jersey, which earlier this year enacted a state law authorizing sports betting, is challenging the constitutionality of the federal ban.
At stake is a multibillion-dollar industry that New Jersey’s casinos and horseracing tracks hope to tap into by offering sports betting. Lawyers for the horsemen’s association, which operates Monmouth Park, said in court filings that the park couldn’t survive unless sports betting is allowed. Sweeney and Oliver said they have an interest because the lawsuit challenges their legislative authority.
The NCAA and leagues opposed adding the three to the lawsuit, arguing that they waited too long, have similar arguments to Christie’s lawyers and would only delay the case. U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp ruled Tuesday to allow the additional defendants, saying the case raised important issues and that the intervention would not slow down the case.
“The court finds that it is in the interests of justice to exercise its discretion in light of the significant constitutional issues presented in this case,” Shipp said in court filings.
The judge did deny a request by Sweeney and Oliver to submit more written arguments on the case, saying they would have a chance to make their arguments in person at the Dec. 18 hearing in Trenton.
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