New Jersey's long-shot bid to bring legalized sports betting to the state got a boost recently. The state's sports-wagering law drew the expected legal challenge that will bring the issue to federal court, right where Gov. Chris Christie and state lawmakers want it.
And the challenge, from the NCAA and professional baseball, basketball, football and hockey, was so full of self-important posturing and hypocrisy that it could make people who were on the fence about sports betting get behind it.
State leaders hope to use the court case to overturn a 1992 federal law that limited legal sports-wagering to four states that already had it: Nevada, Montana, Delaware and Oregon.
New Jersey missed its chance during a one-year window to become the fifth state, but since then the push for legalized sports betting - and the state revenue that would go with it - has gotten stronger. In November, voters approved a constitutional amendment to allow sports betting, and the Legislature quickly passed a law, signed by Christie in January, to bring sports betting to Atlantic City's casinos and state racetracks.
Rather than directly challenging the federal law, the state moved ahead with its plans and in July published regulations governing sports betting. Hence the challenge from professional sports and the NCAA.
In their lawsuit, the sports organizations charged that New Jersey's law "would irreparably harm amateur and professional sports by fostering suspicion that individual plays and final scores of games may have been influenced by factors other than honest athletic competition."
Fostering suspicion? Apparently that suspicion hasn't been fostered by sports wagering in other states - or by the $500 billion-a-year illegal sports-betting industry.
The lawsuit sounds as if no one in professional or college sports is even aware of the Las Vegas sports books, March Madness pools or the coverage of odds and point spreads in most newspapers and on television sports shows.
This isn't about whether wagering changes, taints, corrupts or fosters suspicion about sporting events. If it does, it already has. That horse - be it Bronco or Colt - has already left the barn.
Why would betting in New Jersey make things worse?
Frankly, we've not crazy about the state's tactic of defying federal law and then daring Washington to do something about it, or, as Christie said as he signed the betting law in January, "Let them try to stop us."
And the financial benefits of bringing sports betting to New Jersey have probably been somewhat exaggerated.
But even if sports wagering gives Atlantic City's casino industry only a modest boost, it will still be helpful. And the state can certainly use whatever tax revenue sports betting generates.
Right now that revenue goes to other states and to organized crime. And the excitement generated by sports betting helps pay for those big TV contracts that prop up professional and college sports teams and pay the salaries of league officials.
So please, spare us the sanctimonious arguments.