States vs. Feds on Sports betting


LAS VEGAS — It is a lucrative time of year for Nevada, where more than $200 million will be wagered in sports books on the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball tournament, a pot of money that has budget-crunched states across the country pushing for a piece of the action despite strong opposition from the N.C.A.A. and professional sports leagues.

Isaac Brekken for The New York Times

Patrons at the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino sports book last Thursday as the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball tournament fully got under way.

Isaac Brekken for The New York Times

Bill Keith filling out a betting slip.

Isaac Brekken for The New York Times

March Madness in Las Vegas.

Voters in New Jersey passed a referendum by a 2-to-1 margin making sports betting legal, and last year Gov. Chris Christie signed a law legalizing it at Atlantic City’s 12 casinos and the state’s 4 horse racing tracks. Illinois is considering allowing sports betting, and California lawmakers are looking to reintroduce a sports gambling bill that the State Senate passed last year.

All this has the sports’ governing bodies on high alert. The N.C.A.A. has filed a lawsuit with the N.F.L., the N.H.L., the N.B.A. and Major League Baseball claiming that sports betting in New Jersey would “irreparably” corrupt sports in the United States. This year they were joined by the Justice Department, which defended the constitutionality of a 1992 law banning sports betting outside Nevada and a few other states that had long allowed such gambling.

The N.C.A.A. also canceled several tournaments and sporting events in the state and said it would bar New Jersey from hosting events in the future if sports betting were put into effect.

Last month, a federal judge ruled against New Jersey and upheld the ban on sports betting. The state is appealing, and legal experts say the case will likely reach the Supreme Court.

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