Efforts to legalize sports betting in New Jersey have suffered a major setback.

 A three-judge panel from the U.S. 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia has ruled that the state's betting law conflicts with the 1992 Sports Protection Act that limits the wagering to four states.

The New Jersey law would permit betting on professional and college sports at racetracks and Atlantic City casinos.

State Senator Ray Lesniak (D-Union County) has been leading the effort for New Jersey to get sports betting. He says it's a matter of states' rights.

"It involves hundreds of millions of dollars for our casinos and race tracks, thousands of jobs, and we're going to continue to fight," he said.

Lesniak says he'll ask the full Court of Appeals or the United States Supreme Court to hear the case.

"The only beneficiary of today's ruling is to organized crime and sports betting rings and Internet offshore betting sites," said Lesniak.


Gov. Chris Christie said the state will appeal to the Supreme Court if it will take the case.

New Jersey voters passed a referendum in 2011 to allow sports betting, but plans to allow Atlantic City casinos and the state's race tracks to accept the wagers are on hold.

Professional sports leagues and the NCAA say the betting law would harm the integrity of the games.

Nevada, Oregon, Montana, and Delaware are the only states allowed to have legal sports gambling, though Delaware's version does not let people put down bets on individual games.  It has a "sports lottery" in which people bet on multiple games and win or lose based on how they do on the whole.