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US – New Jersey sports betting decision handed over to Christie

By - 17 October 2014

With the New Jersey Assembly approving new sports betting legislation, the future of New Jersey sports betting rests with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

The Assembly passed the legislation by a 73 to 4 vote. It aims to pave the way for casinos and racetracks to start accepting bets on some sporting events.

Governor Christie has 45 days to decide. His office said he was revising the bill but had no comment at this stage. Any legislation would though face a challenge by the NCCA.

NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said: “The NCAA continues to believe that the spread of legalized sports wagering is a threat to student-athlete well-being and the integrity of athletic competition. The NCAA has asked the United States District Court to stop the state of New Jersey from allowing sports wagering to occur in casinos and racetracks across the state in violation of the injunction issued last year.”

However, legalising sports betting for casinos and racetrack has great support.

New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak said: “Atlantic City is haemorrhaging and our racetracks are bleeding and they need the boost in revenues that this legislation will provide. We regulate where gentlemen’s clubs, for instance, can be. It’s in our police powers and is not the same type of licensing that the courts said PASPA prohibits. I believe and the attorneys for Monmouth Park believe the best move now is to withdraw the motion for clarification and to begin taking bets. I believe the leagues’ end game is property rights. They are going to say that, ‘These are our games and by taking bets on them you are violating our property rights. That would be the basis for them to get to the table and cut a deal.”

Senator Whelan said: “As Atlantic City rebounds from the traumatic effect of casino closings, sports betting could be one of the best and more immediate opportunities to rebuild the city’s economy. Gaming will always be an important part of our attractions and sports betting will expand on it. This is good for Atlantic City, for the casino industry and the state.”

Senator Kyrillos added: “New Jersey’s continued prohibition on sports betting at our casinos and racetracks is contrary to our interest of supporting employers that provide tens of thousands of jobs and add billions to our state’s economy. Sports betting will help set New Jersey’s wagering facilities apart from the competition and strengthen Monmouth Park and our struggling casino industry. Sports betting can assist New Jersey’s struggling casino industry and with our challenges at Monmouth Park Racetrack. Both houses of the Legislature acted quickly to approve this critical measure, and I am confident Governor Christie will join our efforts to help protect Atlantic City and Monmouth Park jobs by signing the bill into law.”

Dennis Drazin, representing Monmouth Park, said: “We hope that Governor Christie will sign the bill in time for us to start taking bets October 26. People are betting with their local bookie, for the most part, except for Vegas. It’s not a comfortable environment. So this would give the public the confidence and the ability to bet in a way that’s not illegal. It would be a good thing for the country.”

In August, Christie took all 45 days before vetoing a similar bill introduced by Lesniak, only to reverse course a month later and issue a directive through Attorney General John Hoffman that instructed law enforcement to cease enforcing sports betting laws at racetracks and casinos.

Ryan Rodenberg, an assistant professor of sports law at Florida State University, said: “The bill passed today appears to be more consistent with Third Circuit’s ruling. Given this passage of the bill, it will be revealing, if Gov. Christie is inclined to sign it and whether he does it before or after the November 21 hearing date. It will reveal whether Governor Christie intends to still pursue sports betting in the state of New Jersey through two different tracks.”

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