Friday May 25, 2012 : NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR SUPPORTS SPORTS BETTING CHALLENGE
"If someone wants to stop us, then let them try to stop us," says Christie on challenge to P.A.S.P.A.
It looks as if New Jersey will lead the charge against the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which limits sportsbetting to just four US states; in a bold statement Thursday the state governor, Chris Christie, said that the people of New Jersey would be allowed to bet on football, basketball and other games by this September.
His statement comes after months of political maneuvering as the state Legislature progressed a bill that will allow the state to challenge the federal P.A.S.P.A. law if necessary.
Christie's statement, made at a press conference held to discuss reinvigorating Atlantic City, made international headlines reporting the governor's promise to issue regulations next week.
"We intend to go forward," the Republican governor said. "If someone wants to stop us, then let them try to stop us. We want to work with the casinos and horse racing industry to get it implemented.
"Am I expecting there may be legal action taken against us to try to prevent it? Yes," the governor said. "But I have every confidence we're going to be successful."
When InfoPowa went to press Friday morning there had been no reaction from the U.S. Justice Department on the governor's intentions.
The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act limits sports betting to Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana.
Last year New Jersey Senator Ray Lesniak launched litigation in a bid to overturn the law but the case was dismissed.
New Jersey voters indicated in a referendum late last year that a 2 to 1 majority favour the introduction of sports betting to the state, and Atlantic City land casino owners support the idea.
Earlier this year, the state legislature passed a sports betting law and Christie signed it, allowing bets to be taken at Atlantic City casinos and the state's four horse tracks.
Casino executives generally support the concept, but are cautious about taking the first commercial step because they are nervous about the federal government's reaction.
"I love the idea of playing offense and having the federal government have to play defense against us," Tony Rodio, president of Tropicana Entertainment, told local reporters. "But I don't know who's going to want to be the first to open knowing they can shut you down. We'd need a lot more clarity before we invested lots of money in a sports book."
Aaron Gomes, vice president of Resorts Casino Hotel, agreed, saying that the idea of moving ahead unilaterally is appealing but risky.
"It's going to be hard to find someone willing to take the first jump," he said. "Particularly for companies that do business in multiple jurisdictions, they might not want to jeopardize their licenses in other states."
Proponents of the sports betting initiative claim that legal sports betting will provide a new source of revenue from a considerable pool of money that now flows untaxed to unlicensed offshore Internet sites or to illegal bookmakers.
Christie told reporters that 50 percent of the revenue generated by sports betting would go toward treatment programs for compulsive gamblers.
The Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association, an online gambling action group pushing for Internet betting to be legalised in the United States, says that sports betting revenues in the US are now close to $500 billion a year.
One of the most active proponents of New Jersey sports betting and online gambling, state Senator Ray Lesniak, predicts that P.A.S.P.A. will be overturned.
"To those with a vested interest in the status quo – the professional sports organizations who take a hypocritical stance that wagering will ‘ruin the purity of the game,' and the Nevada-based gaming conglomerates that have enjoyed that state's stranglehold on sports wagering for the last 20 years – I respectfully say, ‘Bring it on,'" he said in a statement Thursday.
"The sooner you make an issue of New Jersey's non-compliance with an unconstitutional federal ban, the sooner we can defeat that ban in the courts, and put New Jersey on the same competitive footing as the rest of the nation when it comes to sports wagering."
On the contentious subject of legalised online gambling in New Jersey – another Lesniak initiative that has enjoyed wide support from lawmakers both last year and this – Governor Christie would not be drawn at the press conference. He said that the legislature has yet to pass and send him a bill this year.
Last year a Lesniak bill proposing the intrastate licensing and regulation of online gambling by Atlantic City was convincingly passed by both the state House and Senate, only to be vetoed by Governor Christie