New Jersey Casinos and Racetracks Allowed to Operate Sports Books, Says Christie
Governor Chris Christie’s administration has instructed Atlantic City casinos and New Jersey racetracks they can take sports bets on their own initiative. The state will not license the sportsbooks, but it appears the governor’s administration will do nothing to prosecute betting operations at licensed facilities, either.
The Christie administration hinted last week that it had alternative plans for challenging the 1992 PASPA law, which said only Nevada, Oregon, Montana, and Delaware could license sports betting operations. From 2012 until the summer of 2014, Christie’s administration had challenged the PASPA law in the federal courts. When the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of New Jersey’s case, it seemed that the state’s quest for equality with the four PASPA-approved sports betting states had ended.
Chris Christie’s Veto
Last month, the New Jersey state legislature took the initiative once again, passing a bill in both houses that would have given New Jersey’s licensed betting operations the formal right to operate sports gambling operations, known as sportsbooks. When Governor Christie vetoed that legislation, it appeared as if New Jersey has lost the initiative. At the time, Christie stated he would not directly challenge federal laws, since the Supreme Court (tacitly) ruled they should stand.
Governor Christie was criticized by the sponsors of the sports gambling bill for this veto, including Senator Ray Lesniak. The matter appeared settled, but then stories began to circulate that the Christie administration was looking for alternate, less confrontational ways to challenged the federal sports gambling law. Christie called a meeting of New Jersey’s political leaders for September 11 and said he would explain the strategy then. At the time it was announced, Ray Lesniak said he was interested in hearing what the governor had to stay.
What the Federal Judge Said
The lawyers for the New Jersey administration noticed something about the decision of U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp. Though he prevented the state from enacting sports gambling regulations, he also mentioned that the state would not be in violation of federal law if it didn’t prosecute those who allowed sports gambling. Also, Shipp said that he would not prevent New Jersey from repealing its ban on sports gambling.
Essentially, New Jersey is not allowed to license and regulate sportsbooks in the state. At the same time, if the state is not involved in either way, then the sportsbooks can operate and New Jersey would not be defying federal law.
How New Jersey’s Ploy Works
Thus, the casinos and racetracks of the state can operate sportsbooks and the Division of Gaming Enforcement will not prosecute. The only limitations are games taking place in New Jersey, or involving New Jersey-based teams. So teams that play games in New Jersey will not be included in the bookmaker business. Also, college teams whose campuses are located in New Jersey also cannot be a part of the sports gambling.
What Christie’s Lawyers Say
In defending this new stance on the , Christie administration lawyers released the following statement: “Merely applying laws and regulations of general applicability does not constitute licensure or authorization of sports wagering.”
The statement went on to say, “The fact that some individuals are prohibited from gambling does not mean that the state is ‘sanction[ing]’ or ‘approv[ing]’ gambling for everyone else. This is simply common sense: An ordinance stating “no dogs in the park” would not be understood as putting the state’s imprimatur on a reptile lover’s decision to bring her pet python to the park, just as a sign in a restaurant that said ‘no smoking on the patio’ would not constitute a state endorsement of smoking in every place other than the patio.”
How This Affects the State Legislature’s Override
Earlier this month, Senator Ray Lesniak said he would try to override Chris Christie’s veto of the previous bill. It is uncertain how the current legal gymnastics affect Lesniak’s plan to override the veto.