Solicitor General delivers blow to N.J. sports betting case

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The United States Solicitor General's office filed a brief on Wednesday recommending that the Supreme Court decline to review New Jersey's latest effort to offer legal sports betting. The Supreme Court, which in January asked the Department of Justice for its view on the case, is expected to decide whether to accept New Jersey's appeal by the end of June.

According to a 2009 academic study, the Supreme Court follows the recommendation of the Solicitor General 79.6 percent of the time.

The Solicitor General's brief is the latest blow to New Jersey's lengthy battle with NCAA, NFL and other professional sports leagues.

The state has been attempting to bring legal Las Vegas-style sports betting to its ailing casinos and racetracks for more than five years. In August 2012, the sports leagues sued New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who earlier in the year had signed sports legislation, after voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum.

The case is centered on the Professional and Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), which prohibits state-sponsored sports betting, except for a handful of states, and with only Nevada being able to offer a full menu of sports betting options.

"If New Jersey wishes to repeal its prohibition on sports gambling altogether and thereby remain silent with respect to such gambling, or to adopt a partial repeal that is not de facto authorization (by, for instance, lifting state penalties on informal or social wagering), PASPA does not stand in its way," Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey B. Wall wrote in the brief.

New Jersey State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, who has spearheaded the state's sports betting initiative, told ESPN on Wednesday that regardless of whether the Supreme Court follows the Solicitor General's recommendation, he will continue the pursuit.

"I'm not giving up," said Lesniak, who is running for governor.

Neither is the American Gaming Association.

"The 25-year-old ban on sports betting is fueling a thriving $150 billion illegal gambling market that deprives states of revenue that could instead pay for vital public services, such as education, infrastructure and law enforcement," American Gaming Association senior vice president of public affairs Sara Slane said in a statement.

"While the Supreme Court has yet to decide whether to hear New Jersey's case to overturn the federal ban, the casino gaming industry is building a diverse coalition of stakeholders who will work with Congress and the Trump Administration to lift the unconstitutional ban on sports betting and give states the freedom to regulate this increasingly popular American pastime."