Paths To Legal NJ Sports Betting Have Obstacles
Legal Sports Report

Gov. Christie: ‘We’ll Have Sports Gambling In New Jersey’ Soon; But Why The Optimism?

Christie NJ sports betting
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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is bullish on his state having legal sports betting in 2017, according to comments he made on Tuesday. But it’s not clear where that optimism is coming from.

Christie on sports betting

Christie was appearing as a guest radio host on the “Boomer and Carton” sports show on WFAN in New York.

Here is what he said on the topic of sports betting, which New Jersey has tried to legalize for years, according to NJ.com:

“I also think that we’ll have sports gambling in New Jersey in the next year,” Christie said. “Before I leave office, I think we’ll have sports gambling in Monmouth Park.”

New Jersey has twice passed laws that would have partially repealed its sports betting prohibition, allowing race tracks and Atlantic City casinos to offer single-game wagering. So far, those laws have been struck down in federal court as violating a federal law — the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.

Currently, the New Jersey sports betting case is being appealed to the US Supreme Court, with new filings due in the case this week.

Why does Christie think sports betting is coming?

The statement from Christie does not represent some sea change in the climate for sports betting in New Jersey or the US.

More likely, Christie is simply hoping that a battle he and the state legislature have fought over PASPA for years results in something other than attorney fees during his administration.

Part of the legacy of Christie’s tenure is wrapped up in gambling. Atlantic City has fallen on hard times in recent years, with several casino closures. Christie helped orchestrate a state takeover of the casino town. Legalized sports betting is seen as a way to prop New Jersey’s struggling gambling industry.

What would have to happen for New Jersey to have sports betting in 2017?

Christie’s term will end early in 2018. There are several paths to New Jersey offering sports betting, none of them terribly likely:

  • The best chance would come via the US Supreme Court granting an appeal in the sports betting case and then ruling in New Jersey’s favor. The appeal being granted at all is an underdog to happen. And if that does take place, the Supreme Court would then have to reverse a 9-3 decision in the Third Circuit. This scenario faces long odds, although it’s not impossible.
  • New Jersey’s legislature does a full repeal of the state’s sports betting prohibition, the so-called “nuclear option.” This would allow for unfettered and unregulated sports betting in the state. The political will to do this likely does not exist.
  • Congress repeals PASPA, and states can start offering sports betting. While this may have a chance of happening in the coming years, it is not likely to happen in 2017.
  • New Jersey uses the idea of daily fantasy sports regulation to offer prop betting on sports. This idea has not been on the legislature’s radar, so it’s not likely to occur in 2017, either.

The bottom line: Christie’s optimism on legal NJ sports betting in 2017 is not grounded in any new developments.

Image credit: L.E.MORMILE / Shutterstock.com

Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.
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