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New Jersey voters allow state-wide sports gambling

New Jersey voters on Tuesday ratified Public Question 1 [senate resolution text, PDF] by a 65 percent margin, amending the New Jersey constitution [text] to legalize sports gambling in the state despite a continued federal ban. The referendum, in defiance of the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act [text], will not go into effect unless the state wins a lawsuit against the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website]. A previous effort to challenge the federal law, which bans all sports betting in any state but Nevada, Montana, Oregon and Delaware, was dismissed until the New Jersey voters could voice their opinions on the referendum. The new law will allow sports gambling at Atlantic City casinos and racetracks, including betting on amateur and college sports. There is a restriction on gambling on New Jersey-college sports. However, wagers could be made by any means to the casino, including online. Legislators are prepared to introduce the new law [The Star-Ledger report] on Wednesday, but have not announced when their new lawsuit will proceed. Governor Chris Christie (R) [official website] supports both the referendum and lawsuit [AP report].

There is a presumptive prohibition on most forms of gambling in the US, although in Europe such bans have been found to violate EU law. The Washington Supreme Court [official website] ruled last year that a state ban on online gambling [JURIST report] is constitutional. That month, the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] delivered three judgments striking down gambling restrictions [JURIST report] in Germany because the regulations were not designed to protect public interest. The ECJ upheld a Swedish law restricting Internet gambling [JURIST report]. The ECJ held that bans on Internet gambling were acceptable for cultural, moral or religious reasons, but there should be no discrimination. The court concluded that Sweden's ban on Internet gambling was in line with EU laws, but that the nation's lottery laws were not allowed to penalize foreign gambling agencies differently from domestic agencies. In 2006, the US signed a significant ban on Internet gambling [JURIST report], making it illegal for banks or credit card companies to process transactions involving Internet gambling. However, enforcement of the law has been delayed [JURIST report].

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