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Chris Christie throws curveball; authorizes sports betting in NJ

Chris Christie throws curveball; authorizes sports betting in NJ

You're regularly scheduled programming was interrupted on Monday when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's office issued a jaw dropping statement informing the world that the governor had issued a directive allowing casinos and racetracks to legally offer sports betting.

The directive was explained in a statement from the governor's office which reads in part:

"Through a combined Statewide Directive issued by the Attorney General's office and a motion filed on behalf of Governor Christie in the U.S. District Court, the Christie Administration took action today to allow casinos and racetracks to operate sports pools without fear of criminal or civil liability.

"The Attorney General's Statewide Directive follows the Third Circuit's ruling and concludes that nothing under New Jersey law prevents casinos and racetracks from operating a sports pool effective today."

The directive was quite surprising considering Christie vetoed a sports betting bill just a few weeks ago. But maybe not too surprising since a veto override vote has already been scheduled, and initial support for the bill was overwhelming.

Christie may have seen the sports betting bill crafted by State Senator Raymond Lesniak as inevitable and simply wanted to get out in front of it, or perhaps NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's recent comments gave Christie (a sports betting proponent despite his recent veto) hope that the opposition isn't as fierce as it once was.

State lawmakers who have been fighting for sports betting expansion were thrilled with the news, none more than Lesniak, who took to twitter to express his joy:

Stop the presses. NJ AG declares sports betting at casinos and racetracks legal under my legislation. I'll take The Giants to cover tonight

Two Senators, Monmouth County Senators Jennifer Beck and Joseph Kyrillos, whose district has a lot to gain from sports betting (Monmouth Racetrack is a likely home of sports betting under the Lesniak plan) issued a joint statement on Monday which reads:

"This directive paves the way for legalized sports betting in the state which will be a boon to New Jersey," Beck said. "It will keep us competitive with other states while offering a significant new source of tax revenue. Sports betting will also offer a much-needed lifeline to our ailing casinos and horse racing industry. This bold move will have a long-term, positive impact upon our state."

"This action is especially important to Monmouth County, the home of Monmouth Park," said Kyrillos, who voted in favor of the original sports betting legislation. "This is good timing, as we work to create opportunities for the 8,000 people who are looking for new jobs due to Atlantic City's struggles and the reason I voted for sports betting in the first place. We look forward to continuing our work with the administration to resolve this issue."

While it seems like everyone is excited over the directive, which along with the upcoming override vote would pave the road for sports betting in the Garden State, everyone needs to pump the brakes a bit, and put this directive in perspective.

First, this is likely to meet the same challenge New Jersey's original sports betting law met back in 2012. Adam Silver may be ok with legalized sports betting, but the NCAA, NFL and other leagues are likely to already have their court filings en route.

Secondly, this is a workaround attempt, designed to bypass PASPA by eliminating state regulation from the mix. How this is going to play out is anyone's guess.

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NJ Governor Christie Legalizes Sports Betting

NJ Governor Christie Legalizes Sports Betting

Governor Chris Christie released a directive last Monday empowering land-based casinos and racetracks to begin offering “real money” sports bettingimmediately. The governor quoted several decisions and “federal court rulings” where he says federal legislators found no fault with physical racetracks and casinos in the Garden State offering sports betting options, based on current state law. And while he has previously attempted to legalize sports betting in New Jersey, this time Christie made some significant changes which could result in no intervention at the federal level.

Christie – Third Circuit Supports NJ Sports Betting at Casinos and Racetracks

In the directive released last Monday, Christie pointed out that the court of the Third Circuit has already released its opinion based on professional and college sports league arguments, the opinion of the Justice Department, as well as that of New Jersey legislators. According to Christie, past federal court rulings state that no New Jersey law outlaws sports wagering in land-based casinos and racetracks. And this time around the two significant changes which Christie made to his real money sports betting legislation include provisions to protect NCAA college teams based and/or playing in New Jersey.

NJ Sports Betting Law Excludes Games and Colleges in the Garden State

This current NJ sports betting proposal directs casinos and racetracks to begin providing sports betting to New Jersey residents if they choose to do so. However, in order to keep backers of the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) happy, Christie said that no wagering on Garden State college teams is allowed. Additionally, if an out-of-state team travels to and plays in New Jersey, that team would also be excluded from wagering. At the same time he released and announced his statewide directive, Governor Christie filed a motion in federal court asking for judicial clarification, and possibly a favorable modification, of the February 2013 ruling which blocked his state’s earlier sports betting licensing program.

NJ Senators Lesniak and Beck Pleased With Sports Betting Directive

NJ Senators Lesniak and Beck have been staunchly supporting gambling in general, and sports betting specifically, in the state for years. Lesniak announced when he heard of the directive, “Victory at last!” And Senator Beck represents the district which is home to Monmouth Park thoroughbred racetrack. That company has already entered into a partnership with worldwide gambling leader William Hill to offer sports betting, and Beck said that the property could be ready as early as this weekend for actual sports betting to take place. Senator Lesniak went as far as to suggest that visitors should begin booking their accommodations in Atlantic City Boardwalk casinos as soon as possible, because he believes “there won’t be any available in February” when the National Football League Super Bowl takes place.

Legalized Online Sports Betting Is Still a Viable Option for New Jersey Residents

Over the past two years, Governor Chris Christie has twice legalized sports betting in New Jersey. The feds stopped his first proposal, then declined to even listen to an appeal on that ruling. But the same laws, PASPA, the UIGEA and Federal Wire Act of 1961, which move to disallow US-based properties from delivering sports betting options have created a legitimate offshore online gambling industry. Chris Christie understands that his constituents support sports gambling, and are simply going to established and reputable online offshore sports books to conduct their business. He would prefer that millions of dollars in sports betting revenue stay at home and benefit New Jersey residents. And until professional and college sports leagues and federal authorities step in with their opinion on this latest New Jersey attempt to legalize sports betting, Garden State and US residents will continue to place their sports wagers online through industry recognized Atlantic City online sportsbooks.

Governor Christie Says Sports Betting Legal in New Jersey - Play NJ

Governor Christie Says Sports Betting Legal in New Jersey

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced today that racetracks in New Jersey and Atlantic City casinos may offer sports betting. Sen. Ray Lesniak told The Press of Atlantic City, “I think we’re looking at an early November start date”.

Single sports betting and parlays would be allowed across all sports. The only exception is collegiate events that involve a New Jersey school or are played in New Jersey.

New Jersey legalized sports betting in 2012. It passed in a nonbinding statewide referendum in November 2011. The New Jersey Legislature passed it in a landslide. Governor Christie later signed the bill into law. It was met with opposition from the major sports leagues. The U.S. Department of Justice joined the fight and the case went to court. New Jersey lost every court ruling along the way and the U.S. Supreme Court eventually refused to hear the case.

Not all parts of the law were truck down. New Jersey Attorney General John Hoffman felt that the parts of the law that remain intact allow for the decriminalization of sports betting.

This may do little for Atlantic City casinos. The Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority reports that just one percent of tourists that visit the city primarily bet on sports. Sportsbooks are also not known to provide any substantial revenue for Nevada casinos. Revenue is often just one or two percent of overall gaming win. Many Las Vegas resorts lease their space to handicapping experts, such as William Hill and CG Technologies.

There are a few times of the year that sports betting helps fill hotel rooms. Super Bowl Sunday and March Madness are two events that draw tourists to Nevada with the sole purpose of betting on sports.

Atlantic City casinos may be unwilling to go along with this latest attempt to bring sports betting to New Jersey. While New Jersey may feel that booking sports bets is legal under state law, it may not be under federal law. Casinos that are licensed in other states may feel the risk of violating federal law may affect licensing in other jurisdictions that may have a different interpretation of its legal standing.

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Chris Christie Allows Sports Betting at NJ Casinos - Racetracks

Chris Christie Allows Sports Betting

Christie’s directive Monday immediately lifted the prohibition on sports wagering at the New Jersey businesses. The governor’s move comes after three major Atlantic City casinos closed this year and two more announced they will soon go out of business. BY BILL HUTCHINSON NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Published: Monday, September 8, 2014, 12:37 PM Updated: Monday, September 8, 2014, 6:51 PM A A A 327 61 17 SHARE THIS URL New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie issued a directive Monday that immediately lifted the prohibition on sports wagering at casinos and racetracks. HENRY ROMERO/REUTERS New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie issued a directive Monday that immediately lifted the prohibition on sports wagering at casinos and racetracks. With Atlantic City casino business in free fall, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is gambling that sports betting will bail out the boardwalk empire. Christie issued a directive Monday immediately lifting the prohibition on sports wagering at Garden State casinos and racetracks. The governor is seizing on a recent federal court ruling that found nothing in New Jersey law forbids casinos and horse racing tracks from offering sports betting. In September, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that while a federal ban on sports betting in New Jersey was constitutional, it did not prevent the state from repealing the prohibition. “Based on the arguments of the sports leagues and the United States Department of Justice, the 3rd Circuit has already ruled that New Jersey can carry out sports wagering as described in today’s statewide directive,” the governor’s office said in a statement. The casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey RON ANTONELLI/BLOOMBERG Once the East Coast’s gambling hub, Atlantic City (seen here) has suffered as casinos opened in neighboring states such as New York and Pennsylvania after they legalized gambling or expanded betting to increase tax revenue. “The motion simply would clarify and formalize that authority and give clear guidance to casinos and racetracks waiting to open a sports pool in New Jersey.” Christie’s move comes after three major Atlantic City casinos closed this year and two more announced they will soon go out of business. Atlantic City casino revenue has plummeted from $5.2 billion in 2006 to $2.9 billion in 2013 — a 44% decline, according to the University of Nevada at Las Vegas’ Center for Gaming Research. Sports betting was approved by Jersey voters in 2011 and allowed under the state’s Sports Betting Wagering Act that was passed by the legislature and signed by Christie in 2012. California Chrome at Belmont StakesChristie is hoping that sports betting will save the struggling casinos.PreviousNextCalifornia Chrome at Belmont Stakes Crowds cheer at Belmont Stakes This Oct. 21, 2011 file photo shows discarded losing tickets littering the ground at Freehold Raceway in Freehold, N.J. The Supreme Court on Monday left in place a ban on sports gambling in New Jersey, rebuffing an attempt to bring betting on professional and college sporting events to Atlantic City casinos and the state’s racetracks. The justices did not comment in letting stand lower court rulings that struck down New Jersey’s sports betting law because it conflicts with a federal law that that allows state-sanctioned sports gambling only in Nevada and three other states. Credit – AP Photo/Wayne Parry Enlarge COREY SIPKIN/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS But the law was blocked when several professional sports organizations and the Collegiate Athletic Association filed an appeal in federal court. The Republican governor also vetoed two bills last month passed by the Democrat-controlled legislature in an attempt to circumvent the federal ruling. The new law could be derailed again if sports leagues go back to federal court to challenge Christie’s order. Acting New Jersey Attorney General John Hoffman wasted no time in instructing law enforcement agencies Monday that sports betting at casinos and race tracks was now legal. A MARCH 28, 2012 PHOTO WAYNE PARRY/AP Atlantic City casino revenue has plummeted from $5.2 billion in 2006 to $2.9 billion in 2013 — a 44% decline. Under Christie’s directive, casinos and racetracks will be allowed to take bets on sporting events with the exception of teams in New Jersey — including the Jets and Giants. The action was praised by state lawmakers worried about the economic disaster facing Atlantic City. “We cannot sit idle while thousands of residents lose their jobs and a key revenue source … fades,” Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) said in a statement. With News Wire Services Read more:

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Christie Unilaterally Lifts Sports-Betting Prohibition

The New York Times

September 8, 2014

In his most aggressive gambit yet to bring sports betting to the aid of New Jersey’s ailing casino industry, Gov. Chris Christie issued a directive on Monday saying that the state would not prosecute casinos and racetracks for accepting wagers on most athletic contests.

The governor’s office said the prohibition would be lifted “effective today,” but it also sought approval from a judge who had earlier blocked sports betting, creating confusion about what would be allowed, and when.

The state’s racetracks and casinos seemed to be caught off guard by the announcement — as were federal officials and the professional sports leagues who have been fighting the Christie administration in court — and said that they had no plans to begin offering sports betting.

Even the State Legislature’s biggest proponent of sports betting said he doubted that any casinos would allow bets until the judge had ruled.

Mr. Christie, fresh from a trip to Mexico that was filled with the pomp and circumstance of a presidential run, announced his betting plan on the same day that he had called a meeting to address the crisis in Atlantic City. Competition from casinos in other states has led to the closing or planned closing of four casinos there this year, including Revel, which the governor had championed when investors tried to pull out before it was completed.

Those closings will leave 8,000 people out of work, and the day opened with more bad news. The CBS affiliate in Philadelphia reported that the Trump Taj Mahal would shut in November, putting an additional 2,800 employees out of work. The casino’s owners warned last week that it would have difficulty staying open. Already, New Jersey’s unemployment rate is higher than the national average and the rates of neighboring states.

Mr. Christie’s announcement also distracted from the reminders of another nagging problem for the governor: Monday was the first anniversary of the closing of access lanes to the George Washington Bridge, which was later revealed to have been engineered and then concealed by the governor’s aides and allies at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The lane closings, to the world’s busiest bridge, snarled traffic for commuters, school buses and emergency vehicles for four days in the borough of Fort Lee, N.J., where the mayor had declined to endorse Mr. Christie’s re-election.

On Monday, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, held a news conference with the bridge as a backdrop, and said that gridlock was the defining metaphor of the Christie administration, noting that the state led the nation in foreclosures and was ranked 48th in economic growth.

Last week, she said, a ratings agency issued the seventh credit downgrade of Mr. Christie’s tenure — more than under any other New Jersey governor — after the governor failed to make the pension payments he promised in legislation he once championed as having “fixed” the problem of rising retirement costs.

Mr. Christie’s directive on Monday was an attempt to work around a 1992 federal law that bans states from sanctioning or licensing sports betting. Four states that allowed some form of sports betting were exempt, and New Jersey was allowed one year to pass legislation allowing it, but failed to do so.

In 2011, the state’s voters approved a constitutional amendment eliminating a prohibition on sports pools at casinos and racetracks. The following year, the Legislature passed a bill decriminalizing sports betting and establishing licensing requirements for casinos and racetracks to offer it.

Five major sports leagues and the United States attorney for New Jersey then challenged the state, saying the legislation violated the federal law, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. That challenge was successful, and was upheld by the Third Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, which many sports betting advocates said was the end of the road for the plan.

But, as the state noted in its directive Monday, the leagues and the federal government acknowledged in court that while the state could not sponsor or license sports betting by law, there was nothing to stop New Jersey from repealing its own prohibition on sports betting. The Third Circuit agreed.

The directive said that casinos and racetracks would be exempt from criminal or civil prosecution for sports wagering, so long as they did not accept wagers on college or professional events that took place in New Jersey, or in which a team from any New Jersey college took part, regardless of where it was played.

In a filing by private lawyers hired to fight the case, the Christie administration asked the district court judge, Michael A. Shipp, to modify an injunction he issued in February 2013 blocking the state from allowing sports betting.

Mr. Christie’s move was unexpected; as recently as a month ago, he vetoed legislation that would have similarly repealed the prohibition on sports betting at casinos and racetracks.

A spokeswoman for the United States attorney, Paul J. Fishman, said his office had no advance notice of the governor’s directive or his request to the court, which is unusual in litigation that has played out for several years. But she declined to comment beyond that.

Michael Bass, a spokesman for the National Basketball Association, which has spoken for the leagues, said they, too, had no comment.

State Senator Raymond Lesniak, a Democrat who has been the Legislature’s leading proponent of sports betting and was a sponsor of the legislation the governor vetoed last month, welcomed the directive, saying that it would simply permit gambling that already takes place every day.

“The profits were going to offshore businesses and organized crime,” he said. “Now it can be regulated and produce tax revenue for vital public needs and generate economic benefits for Atlantic City and the State of New Jersey.”

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