New Jersey contradicts itself by saying sports betting is not harmful even as its own regulations prohibit wagers on New Jersey college events, five sports governing bodies argued in a brief filed Monday in federal court.

The bodies are suing New Jersey to block a state law that was enacted earlier this year that would allow casinos and racetracks to offer sports betting.

The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or PASPA, prohibits sports gambling in the United States in all but four states — Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana — all of which offered sports wagering prior to the act’s federal enactment in 1992.

“(The) defendants’ argument that state-sponsored sports gambling has no adverse effects on the sports organizations is contradicted not just by decades of conduct evincing the organizations’ conclusions otherwise, but also by the considered judgment of both Congress and the state of New Jersey,” lawyers representing Major League Baseball, the NBA, NFL, NHL and the NCAA said in a brief filed in U.S. District Court in Trenton.

New Jersey has asked the federal court to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that illegal sports gambling already exists but has not proved to be harmful to the leagues.

Lawyers for the bodies fired back, saying if the state believed sports gambling were not harmful, its own law would allow for it without exception.

“Nowhere in their brief do defendants attempt to explain why New Jersey has singled out its own teams and sporting events for protection from injuries that purportedly do not exist,” the bodies' lawyers said in their brief.

New Jersey also argued the bodies do not have standing to sue, saying Congress, through the federal act, should not have given them that right because that decision can be made by the judicial branch and not the legislative one.

The bodies counter that they have standing to sue even in the absence of the federal act, but that the court should still uphold the law.

“Defendants invite the court, with no support whatsoever, to hold that Congress acted unconstitutionally when it concluded that state-sponsored gambling is injurious to sports organizations and granted those organizations a right to prevent its spread,” the bodies' lawyers said in their brief. “This court should decline to accept defendants’ invitation.”

The bodies acknowledged that illegal gambling exists, but argued that does not limit their right to keep the wagering to a minimum.

“Just because it may be impossible to prevent all illegal gambling, it certainly does not follow that plaintiffs somehow forfeit the ability to stem the tide of legalized gambling,” lawyers said. “Once again, (the) defendants’ argument runs headlong into Congress’ judgment in PASPA. Congress clearly believed limiting the spread of state-sponsored gambling was a worthwhile endeavor.”

Allowing gambling to routinely occur on sporting events would change the perception of games forever, the lawyers said.

“The spread of state-sponsored sports wagering, Congress found, would change the relationship between the sports organizations and their fans from one in which loyal fans watched sporting events to root on their teams to one in which self-interested gamblers watched sporting events to determine the outcome of a bet,” lawyers said.

The bodies also said New Jersey should lobby Congress to change the law if it disagrees with it rather than going through the courts.

“There is nothing suspect — let alone irrational — about Congress’ determination that professional and amateur sports organizations are injured by the spread of state-sponsored gambling,” the lawyers said. “(The) defendants may disagree with that determination, but they must address those disagreements to Congress, not this court, which is bound to give Congress’ eminently rational determination the deference it is due.”

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