Governor Christie Faces Monday Deadline for New Sports Betting Legislation
Monday is the deadline for when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie can submit a new bill to legalize sports betting in casino and at racetracks in the state. Christie has been a supporter of licensed sports wagers since it became a hot-button issue early in his administration. Two years ago, Christie championed state legislation which would have challenged federal gaming laws.
Lawsuit by the NFL, NBA, and MLB
That spawned a lawsuit by the major American sports leagues (and NCAA), which Christie appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court eventually declined to see the case. That decision in July 2014 means New Jersey has to start a new legislative initiative, if it wants to license sports betting for Atlantic City casinos.
As the suit rose through the appellate courts, pressure has grown on the governor from pro-sports gambling and anti-sports gambling advocates and public policy groups. The case has received a great deal of national news coverage, with pundits debating whether it is fair or constitutional for the federal government to allow four states (Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana) to allow sports bets, while banning the practice in 46 other U.S. states. Governor Christie has held the position that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 is not fair and may not be constitutional. Now, he’ll have to decide whether he should directly challenge the law.
Ray Lesniak Wants the Governor to Act
New Jersey State Senator Ray Lesniak has suggested bypassing federal laws and the US Supreme Court’s interpretation of the PAPSA 1992. Such a decision would have complications and would by no means be assured of success. Christie already has been criticized for wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on a lost cause, when choosing to challenge the previous lawsuit with appeals.
The main reason for the complication is this: New Jersey had a chance to opt-in to the law back in 1992. Along with the four states which have legalized sports gambling, New Jersey was given the opportunity to pass legislation which would have given the state PAPSA clearance. The state legislature failed to do so, and the New Jersey gambling industry has paid the price ever since.
Failed Gaming Industry
The difference in 2014 is that the future of Atlantic City could be at stake. Atlantic City began the year with 12 land-based casinos. Due to a crashing gaming market brought on by market saturation from nearby states and a bad economy, the city will have only 8 casinos by year’s end. Sports betting would give the Boardwalk casinos an edge against gaming venues in Pennsylvania and New York, and might be the best remaining chance to breathe to life a dying casino industry.
Criticism from John Mara
The sports leagues which sued New Jersey in the first place have been critical of Governor Christie and Ray Lesniak, saying they are acting out of pure self-interest. That’s what New York Giants co-owner John Mara recently said about Ray Lesniak. Senator Lesniak and his political allies might cop to that charge, while replying the NFL, NBA, and other leagues are doing exactly the same.
What might have more effect is the threat John Mara made on behalf of the pro sports franchises in New York and New Jersey. He said they would not support New Jersey casinos who try to circumvent federal law. What that lack of support might entail is unknown, though some anti-sports betting advocates have suggested they would sue venues which defy the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992.
If a new iniative happens, it faces a deadline on Monday, August 11. Governor Chris Christie has a weekend to consider his options. Each way has its risks, and the state of New Jersey might be playing a game with the deck stacked against it. Chris Christie has to decide whether another possible lost cause is worth championing.