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Christie Says NJ Casinos, Tracks Can Offer Sports Betting

Image: Christie Says NJ Casinos, Tracks Can Offer Sports Betting
(Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images)

Tuesday, 09 Sep 2014 08:22 AM

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s administration declared that casinos and racetracks can offer sports betting without fear of prosecution or civil liability, setting up another possible showdown with professional and college leagues.

Sports wagering at casinos and racetracks is now legal as long as it doesn’t involve New Jersey’s college teams or any collegiate events in the state, Christie’s acting attorney general, John Hoffman, said yesterday in a directive.

The new push for sports betting came as the governor convened a closed-door summit in Atlantic City with political leaders and casino officials weighing how to revive the seaside resort. Atlantic City’s gambling revenue sagged to $2.9 billion last year from a peak of $5.2 billion in 2006 as casinos in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and New York cut into the resort’s haul.

As part of the effort, the Republican governor’s lawyers asked a federal judge to clarify his ruling last year that blocked a 2012 state law allowing sports betting at casinos and tracks. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia upheld that injunction. Christie’s lawyers filed a motion yesterday with the judge asking him to rule that his order still permits sports wagering that doesn’t fall under direct state regulation.

‘Made Clear’

“Nothing under New Jersey law prevents casinos and racetracks from operating a sports pool effective today,” Christie’s office said yesterday in a statement. The appellate court “made clear that New Jersey was free to remove prohibitions against sports wagering.”

After the Atlantic City meeting yesterday, the governor said he had no role in authorizing the directive.

“I didn’t sign any order today,” he said. “The attorney general issued a directive interpreting the Third Circuit decision and his interpretation was that in the Third Circuit’s decision nothing prevented any entity in this state from going forward and offering sports betting.”

The path to yesterday’s action has been full of legal conflict. In 2011, state voters approved a non-binding amendment to the constitution to allow sports wagering. In January 2012, Christie signed legislation authorizing betting at casinos and tracks.

Federal Conflict

The National Collegiate Athletic Association and the major professional sports leagues in football, baseball, basketball and hockey sued to block the law. They said it conflicted with the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or PASPA, passed in 1992.

According to the leagues and the NCAA, New Jersey’s law would undermine their integrity and violate the federal statute, which bans sports betting in all but four states: Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon.

U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp sided with the federal government and the sports leagues, barring New Jersey from sponsoring or operating a betting, gambling or wagering system based on amateur or professional competitive games.

Last September, the appeals court panel in Philadelphia ruled 2-1 in favor of the U.S. and the leagues. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

In the motion filed with Shipp yesterday, Christie’s lawyers said PASPA was intended to restrict the spread of “state-sponsored” sports wagering that might create a “label of legitimacy.” To declare that casinos and tracks may operate a sports pool doesn’t grant it legitimacy, they argued.

‘Simply States’

Rather, “it simply states that the activity is no longer prohibited in those settings,” Christie’s lawyers argued.

Casinos and tracks are still subject to labor laws, construction codes, age restrictions and regulations that allow prohibition of patrons for crimes or cheating, they said.

“These restrictions on who may gamble (e.g., no cheats or underage persons), where they may gamble (e.g., only at specified facilities), and under what conditions (e.g., only if specified facilities and alcohol service requirements are met) do not ‘authorize’ gambling,” they argued.

“The plain meaning of ‘authorize’ is ‘to give formal approval to; to sanction, approve, countenance,’” they said, citing the Oxford English Dictionary.

The Christie move met with approval from several state lawmakers who have pushed for legalized sports gambling.

‘Legally Sanctioned’

“This is what we’ve been working to achieve: to allow sports betting in New Jersey that is legally sanctioned and beneficial to the casinos, racetracks and state’s economy,” said state State Senator Raymond Lesniak, a Democrat. “Gambling on sporting events already takes place every day, but the profits were going to offshore businesses and organized crime.”

This year, Lesniak shepherded legislation that would have allowed sports betting despite the appellate ruling. On Aug. 1, Christie vetoed that bill, saying it “partially deregulates betting at casinos and racetracks in an effort to sidestep federal law.”

The case is National Collegiate Athletic Association v. New Jersey, 13-1714, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (Philadelphia).

--With assistance from Terrence Dopp in in Atlantic City, New Jersey and Elise Young in Trenton.

To contact the reporter on this story: David Voreacos in federal court in Newark, New Jersey, at dvoreacos@bloomberg.net To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net Andrew Dunn

© Copyright 2017 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

   
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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's administration declared that casinos and racetracks can offer sports betting without fear of prosecution or civil liability, setting up another possible showdown with professional and college leagues.Sports wagering at casinos and...
christie, casinos, sports, betting
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2014-22-09
Tuesday, 09 Sep 2014 08:22 AM
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