It's easy to get caught up in the drama of New Jersey's battle to bring legalized sports betting to the state. So far, the maneuvering has had some of the excitement of a championship series.

But while following the state's effort may feel like watching a sporting event, the outcome is unlikely to be a game-changer.

If you're keeping score, Tuesday's 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling means New Jersey is down 2-0 against the sports leagues that have challenged a state law legalizing sports betting. But the plucky underdog is still on his feet and is pledging to go all the way.

The appeals court agreed with a February ruling by a U.S. District Court judge that the state could not implement sports betting in defiance of the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. That federal law limited sports betting to the four states that had some form of it at the time - Nevada, Montana, Delaware and Oregon - and gave New Jersey a year to legalize sports betting. But an attempt to put the issue before state voters never made it out of the Legislature at the time.

In 2011, New Jersey voters approved a constitutional amendment to allow sports betting. The Legislature quickly passed a bill to bring sports betting to racetracks and Atlantic City casinos, and Gov. Chris Christie signed it into law in January 2012.

Christie said Tuesday he hopes the U.S. Supreme Court will take the case. Sports-betting advocates are encouraged by a dissent from one of three appeals court judges, who said he did not think the 1992 federal law was constitutional.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd, and other members of the state's congressional delegation said they would continue to push for federal legislation to allow sports betting in New Jersey.

Still, no oddsmaker would call New Jersey's bid anything but a long shot.

And even if the state does succeed, it is unlikely that the payoff will be anywhere near what sports-betting supporters have predicted. A ruling nullifying the federal sports-betting ban would allow every state to legalize sports betting. We'd have no great advantage.

That doesn't mean there wouldn't be some benefit for the state and for Atlantic City, where casinos might be able to draw crowds by promoting big sporting events. And even a modest bump in gaming revenue would be welcome.

So we wish state officials well as they continue this fight. But the rest of us should be wary about getting our hopes up, either about the eventual outcome of the legal challenges or about the boon sports betting would be.

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