In denying the state's request to dismiss the lawsuit by the NBA, NHL, NFL, Major League Baseball and the NCAA, U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp agreed that they have standing to file the suit because expanding legal sports betting to New Jersey would negatively affect perception of their games.
In his ruling, Shipp cited studies offered by the leagues that showed fans' negative attitudes toward game-fixing and sports gambling.
"While most of these studies alone may not constitute a direct causal link between legalized gambling and negative issues of perception on the part of Plaintiffs' fans, sufficient support to draw this conclusion exists," Shipp wrote.
New Jersey also has argued in court papers that a 1990s law prohibiting sports gambling in all but four states is unconstitutional, and Shipp ordered that a date for oral argument on that issue will be issued after Jan. 20.
The federal law prohibited sports gambling in all states but Nevada, where bettors can gamble on single games, and three other states that were allowed to offer multi-game parlay betting. New Jersey has argued the law usurps the authority of state legislatures and discriminates by "grandfathering" in some states.
On Friday, a nationwide poll released by Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind found that 51 percent of Americans support making sports gambling legal everywhere.
The leagues filed suit in August after Gov. Chris Christie vowed to defy a federal ban on sports wagering. Christie signed a sports betting law in January, limiting bets to the Atlantic City casinos and the state's horse racing tracks.
New Jersey has said it plans to license sports betting as soon as January, and in October published regulations governing licenses. But the state agreed to give the leagues 30 days' notice before it grants any licenses and hasn't done so yet, the state attorney general's office said last week.
The state, represented by former U.S. solicitor general Theodore Olson, had argued before Shipp last Tuesday that the leagues are as popular as they've ever been despite the existence of legal gambling in Nevada and more widespread illegal gambling.
The NCAA has said it will relocate several championship events scheduled to be held in New Jersey next year because of the state's sports gambling push.