U.S. judge blocks New Jersey sports betting law

(Reuters) - A U.S. federal judge on Friday blocked a New Jersey law that would have allowed legal betting on sporting events at some places in the state. New Jersey officials have hoped that legalized sports wagering would generate more revenue for Atlantic City's gambling industry, which has lost customers to a spate of new casinos opening in nearby states. In a 31-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp wrote that the law, signed last month by Republican Governor Chris Christie, violated a federal statute that bans sports betting in nearly all U.S. states. "This (law) necessarily results in sports wagering with the state's imprimatur, which goes against the very goal of (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act)," Shipp wrote. "The court has determined that the 2014 Law is invalid." Voters approved the idea of legal sports betting in 2011, and the following year, Christie signed a bill doing just that. But the NBA, NFL and other sports leagues successfully sued, saying the measure violated the federal ban. Last month, Christie attempted to revive the state's push for sports betting by signing a law that partially repealed New Jersey's ban on wagering in the state. That law would allow sports betting at state-licensed casinos and racetracks. The sports leagues took the state back to court on Oct. 20, saying the new effort also violated the federal sports gambling ban and they would suffer irreparable harm if it took effect. Judge Shipp issued a temporary restraining order days later, blocking the bill, before granting a permanent injunction in Friday's opinion. New Jersey Senate president Stephen Sweeney said in a statement on Twitter after the ruling that he would continue, "pursuing every legal option available." "The economic impact sports wagering can have on (New Jersey) is far too important," he added. Writing in the New York Times last week, National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver urged the U.S. Congress to pass legislation letting states regulate sports betting. (Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)