By Annie Ross

This was as predictable as day following night.

A federal judge Friday granted a request by four professional sports leagues and the NCAA for a temporary restraining order to halt the Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N. J., from becoming the first venue in New Jersey to offer legal sports wagering.

Monmouth Park was set to take advantage of a law Gov. Chris Christie signed last week paving the way for legalized sports betting at the state’s casinos and racetracks by repealing an old state ban.

But the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and NCAA filed a lawsuit Monday, saying the law violates a federal ban on sports wagering. They asked U.S. District Court Judge Michael Shipp in Trenton for the restraining order, saying Monmouth Park’s plan would cause them immediate irreparable harm.

Shipp agreed.

“The plaintiffs argue that betting could result in a negative effect on the perception of their games and their relationship to their fans,” the judge said in his decision. “This is a very real harm.”

Monmouth Park officials argued that granting the restraining order would cause them harm because they had spent $1 million on constructing a bar to host sports betting and were expecting anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 extra patrons Sunday.

But Shipp said the track “could have waited on the validity (of the case) prior to taking such steps.”

“The public interest is served in preserving the status quo until the merits of a serious controversy can be fully considered by the court,” the judge said in the decision.

The move was the latest blow to New Jersey’s long effort to legalize sports betting — which lawmakers say will help the state’s struggling gaming industry, which has taken a significant hit in recent months with the closing of several casinos in Atlantic City. State officials say New Jersey loses millions of dollars each year to illegal sports betting operations.

But the case is far from over. Shipp will now hear it in court and though a hearing date hasn’t been set, state officials said they expect it to be soon. No matter who wins, it’s likely the case will head to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Christie’s office, noted today that the order is temporary “while the core issues surrounding sports wagering in New Jersey are fully considered by the court.”

“We continue to have full confidence in the strength and appropriateness of our position as we move forward in the litigation,” Drewniak said.


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