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Against the Odds: Leagues Try to Stop Legal Sports Gambling in New Jersey

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Dan Demeglio, race and sports book supervisor, cashes a 200-to-1 future bet for Doug O'Neill, trainer of Kentucky Derby winner I'll Have Another, at the Primm Valley Casino in Primm
Dan Demeglio, race and sports book supervisor, cashes a 200-to-1 future bet for Doug O'Neill, trainer of Kentucky Derby winner "I'll Have Another", at the Primm Valley Casino in Primm, Nevada June 25, 2012. O'Neill won $20,000 for his $100 bet, which he made in February, that the horse would win the Kentucky Derby. Steve Marcus / Las Vegas Sun via Reuters, file

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The four major American pro sports leagues and the NCAA are going to court to stop legalized sports gambling in New Jersey, where a horse track is ready to take bets on the NFL as soon as Sunday.

The NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NHL are asking a judge in Trenton for an injunction to stop a law signed Friday by Gov. Chris Christie that authorizes sports betting at tracks and casinos.

State Sen. Raymond Lesniak says it would be a lifeline for beleaguered Atlantic City — and celebrated the new law by wondering on Twitter: “Need help. Whom should I bet on next Sunday?”

The leagues argue in court filings that the law is a thinly veiled attempt to get around a 1992 federal law that limited sports gambling to four states. Only one of those — Nevada — allows unlimited sports wagering on single games. The leagues have argued that widespread gambling would damage the integrity of sports.

The chambers of Judge Michael Shipp said a hearing on the injunction request had not been scheduled. There was no indication when the judge might rule. Only one facility, the Monmouth Park race track, has announced plans to allow betting right away.

The American Gaming Association, an industry group, says that Americans put down as much as $380 billion a year in illegal sports wagers — more than 100 times the $3.5 billion wagered legally in Nevada.

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