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Jeff Ifrah Quoted on Supreme Court Sports Betting Case, Christie v. NCAA

More than six years after New Jersey voters endorsed legal wagering on football, baseball and other sports  events, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing a case that could make sports betting – already a multi-billion-dollar illegal industry – legal in the state and elsewhere.

The case scheduled to go before the court Monday will determine whether New Jersey violated federal law by approving sportsbooks at Atlantic City casinos and racetracks throughout the state, which would have made New Jersey the only state outside of Nevada in which people could place bets on individual sporting events.

New Jersey has prepared longer than any other state for the day that residents could walk into a casino or a racetrack and place a wager on a game by the Devils, Nets, Phillies, or any other team except for New Jersey-based college sports. Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport built a $1 million sports-betting lounge after 64 percent of New Jersey voters approved legal wagering in 2011. Since sports leagues sued to prevent wagering in New Jersey, the lounge has operated as a sports bar that offers cashless “bets” on pro and college football championships with $2,500 prizes, said Dennis Drazin, an adviser to the owners of Monmouth Park.

MGM Resorts International announced in November that it’s spending $7 million on a sports-betting parlor at its Borgata casino in Atlantic City.

Proponents say sports betting has ballooned into a huge illegal industry – with $90 billion in annual wagers on football alone – without regulations to protect gamblers or taxation to benefit the public at large.

“Consumers are spending all of their money on offshore sites anyway, so why not legalize it, regulate it, tax it?” said Jeff Ifrah, a Washington lawyer who has represented sports betting operators since 1997. “It will be better for the consumer and for the state as well.”

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