Corzine Will Postpone Joining Sports-Wagering Suit

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Derek Harper, Press of Atlantic City

NEWARK - Gov. Jon S. Corzine wants to allow Gov.-elect Chris Christie to decide whether or not the Governor's Office will join a lawsuit that seeks to overturn the existing federal ban on sports wagers, according to court filings.

In papers filed with the United States District Court on Thursday, Corzine asked to extend the deadline for the Governor's Office to file its separate complaint from Thursday until March 10, 2010, "to allow the governor-elect time to review this matter and make a determination as to how to proceed."

Federal courts granted Corzine the right to intercede Nov. 2. He lost the governor's race to Christie the following day.

Corzine's filing, by his attorney William J. Castner, said Christie's transition office wanted time to review and become familiar with the issues involved in the case.

Christie's transition staff did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

In a response, federal attorneys handling the case said they took no position on the delay request because they believed the governor - no matter who he is - could not intercede because he had no legal interest in the case. They asked that if the court grants Corzine's delay, then it allow them a similar delay in filing objections to the earlier approval to intercede.

Chief Judge Garrett E. Brown Jr. is scheduled to decide Corzine's request Dec. 7.

State Sen. Raymond J. Lesniak, D-Union, along with an online gaming trade group and horseracing advocates, filed suit in March, claiming the current ban is an unconstitutional interference on the state's ability to conduct its own affairs.

The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 banned sports book but grandfathered four states with existing sports wagering programs: Delaware, Nevada, Oregon and Montana.

Federal lawmakers crafted an exemption for New Jersey, but state lawmakers were unable to pass legislation within the one-year window.

New Jersey lawmakers seek to use sports wagering to bolster the state's racetracks and Atlantic City's casinos. The suit is being watched across the country, by lawmakers seeking a new way to fund recession-starved budgets.

Lesniak said Thursday he has called Christie's transition team seeking the incoming governor's support.

"It is important to the state and we should aggressively pursue this case and Gov. Christie supporting this case would be important to that end," Lesniak said.

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