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The fight over legalized sports gambling in New Jersey returned to a federal appeals court Tuesday, where attorneys for the state and the country's major sports leagues spent nearly an hour parsing language in a decades-old federal statute and in recent court rulings.

At issue: Whether a 2014 New Jersey law repealing prohibitions against sports gambling violates the 1992 federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which says states cannot "sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license or authorize" sports betting.

A good portion of Tuesday's oral arguments before the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals focused on the meaning of the word "authorize," and whether New Jersey did that when Gov. Chris Christie signed the law striking the betting prohibitions.

Attorneys from both sides endured sharp questioning from the court, which heard a previous incarnation of the case in 2013. In the ruling that followed that argument, the court said New Jersey couldn't be prevented from repealing its sports gambling laws. The state seized on that language to write its 2014 law.


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