New Jersey Assembly sends sports betting bill to Christie

Industries Associated Press

State lawmakers passed legislation Thursday that could allow legal sports betting in New Jersey to move forward.

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The Assembly passed a measure that was overwhelmingly approved earlier this week in the state Senate. It's aimed at helping the state's foundering casino and racetrack industries, and would partially repeal prohibitions against sports wagering in the state.

"We are a short step away from getting this done and a lot closer to bringing sports betting to New Jersey," Democratic state Sen. Raymond Lesniak said in a statement. "I urge the governor to sign it into law as fast as he can."

A spokesman for Gov. Chris Christie declined to take a position on the bill and said the governor will review the measure before acting.

The issue, which still faces legal challenges from professional sports leagues and the NCAA, reaches back to a 2011 referendum in which voters approved sports betting.

The Legislature and governor later agreed on sports wagering legislation, but the professional sports leagues and the NCAA sued seeking an injunction, which a judge granted in 2013.

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The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case on appeal.

Earlier this year Christie vetoed another bill that would have repealed the state's prohibitions against sports betting, but then seemed to reverse course, ordering the attorney general not to prosecute casinos and racetracks if they offered betting that was not regulated by the state.

The leagues criticized the move, calling the governor's effort a "blatant attempt to circumvent" the court's injunction. The judge in the case recently postponed oral arguments until Oct. 31.

Supporters of the new measure say it might help persuade the judge to permit betting to go forward.