monmouth park horse racing

In this file photo from 2010, thoroughbreds break from the gate on the opening day of horse racing at Monmouth Park racetrack Saturday, May 22, 2010. Sports betting could soon be added at the track. (AP Poto/EQUI-PHOTO, Bill Denver)

A racetrack in central New Jersey may be the first place in the state to accept legal bets on sporting events.

Dennis Drazin, an attorney who advises Monmouth Park told the Associated Press on Tuesday that the park hopes to take sports bets as soon as Sunday, if it can prepare in time.

Drazin told The Press of Atlantic City on Monday the park was “flooded with calls” following the governor’s announcement Monday that the state would not prosecute racetracks and casinos that allow patrons to bet on some sporting events. He told The Press the track would seek to take sports bets within 30 days.

But Monmouth Park may be the only one.

While sports pools have been touted as the latest proposal to revive Atlantic City’s fortunes, no casino expressed interest in offering them on Tuesday.

Instead, casinos either declined comment or ignored requests for comment altogether. Katie Dougherty, spokeswoman for Caesars Entertainment, wrote in an email that “until we can fully understand all of the elements, it’s premature to comment.”

A call to Mays Landing’s Atlantic City Race Course was forwarded to Parx Racing COO Joe Wilson, who similarly did not respond.

In a five-page law enforcement directive and formal opinion on Monday, acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said the state’s Sports Wagering Act of 2011 permitted the state’s race tracks and casinos to offer sports book, excluding events happening in New Jersey or involving New Jersey college teams.

Hoffman’s memorandum to state law enforcement pointed out that previous federal court rulings that upheld the constitutionality of the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act never prohibited New Jersey from repealing its ban on sports wagers.

Gov. Chris Christie said at a Tuesday press conference in Camden that the state would have no role in either taxing or regulating sports book. He also said he would neither encourage nor discourage casinos and racetracks from getting into the business.

Monday’s announcement followed several years of legislation and litigation that saw state residents pass a non-binding referendum backing sports wagering in 2011. The proposal never got off the ground, however, because of a 1992 federal law that limited sports betting to four states.

New Jersey lost repeatedly as it challenged the constitutionality of the federal law, a battle that seemed to end in June when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the state’s final appeal.

Christie’s strategy was similar to the strategy of state Sen. Ray Lesniak, D-Union. Lesniak had argued that the federal prohibition violated the U.S. Constitution’s 10th Amendment, which bars the federal government from compelling states to enforce federal policy.

Christie vetoed a bill last month sponsored by Lesniak that would have dropped state prohibitions against sports wagering, saying then that “Ignoring federal law, rather than working to reform federal standards, is counter to our democratic traditions and inconsistent with the Constitutional values I have sworn to defend and protect.”

Instead, on Monday lawyers for the state asked the courts, in the wake of Christie’s announcement, to clarify a Feb. 28, 2013, federal injunction against sports wagering. US District Judge Michael A. Shipp is expected to announce his decision on Oct. 6.

It in unclear how he Shipp would rule.

Other states have followed the case with interest. Georgia, Kansas, Virginia and West Virginia also filed friend-of-court briefs questioning the statute’s potential to narrow states’ 10th Amendment protections against being compelled to enforce federal policy.

I. Nelson Rose, an expert in gambling law and professor at Whittier Law School, told the Star-Ledger of Newark, “Certainly, any New Jersey casino that did this would lost it license everywhere, including its assets (gained from sports betting.)” Rose added “What Christie is telling the casinos to do is violate federal law, and it’s a criminal law and the normal remedies for criminal law is to be arrested.”

At the same time, Walter Champion Jr., Rose’s co-author on “Gambling Law in a Nutshell,” said there may be no role for federal officials, as long as the bets are only taken in-person, at New Jersey venues. Eliminating some amateur sports also eliminated some arguments against the proposal.

“You don’t have to have it out of state if it’s done well and done correctly,” said Champion, the George Foreman professor of sports and entertainment law at Texas Southern University Law School.

Similarly, Marc Edelman, a law professor at City College of New York, said New Jersey is arguably in a stronger position than it was a year ago.

Baseball has a relationship with fantasy sports leagues, he said, while the National Basketball Association and National Football League have considered expanding into parts of Europe where sports betting is legal and accepted.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Derek Harper:

609-272-7046

@dnharper on Twitter

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