A federal appeals court dealt another blow to New Jersey's efforts to legalize sports gambling Sept. 17 by upholding a ruling that the state's betting law conflicts with federal law and shouldn't be implemented.

The case was heard by a three-judge panel at the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, Pa. New Jersey could seek to have the case re-heard by the full appeals court, but the ruling more likely means the state's last chance to legalize sports gambling is to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

A spokesman for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie didn't immediately return a message seeking comment, but in the past Christie has said he would go to the nation's highest court if necessary.

"For the first time, a judge has ruled in our favor," New Jersey Sen. Ray Lesniak said. "That gives us hope that others, either Supreme Court Justices or the entire Court of Appeals for our district, will allow New Jersey to enjoy the economic benefits of sports betting that are now reserved exclusively for Nevada.

"Las Vegas is jammed for Super Bowl week and for the NCAA Final Four weekend while Atlanta City is a ghost town. That's just wrong. The only other beneficiaries of the court's ruling today are sports betting rings run by organized crime and the offshore Internet sites for sports betting."

Voters passed a sports betting referendum in 2011, and last year New Jersey enacted a law that limited bets to the Atlantic City casinos and the state's race tracks. Bets wouldn't be taken on games involving New Jersey colleges or college games played in the state.

Christie said at the time that he hoped to grant sports betting licenses by early this year, but those plans were put on hold. The NFL, NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball, and the NCAA sued the state last year, and the NCAA moved several of its championship events out of New Jersey, though it later relented.

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