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Chris Christie Signs New Jersey Sports Wagering Bill

In an unexpected demonstration of legislative speed, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has signed into law a revised sports betting bill after it was passed by the state’s Assembly on Thursday.  Christie’s signing of the latest New Jersey sports wagering measure means that real-money sports betting could take place in the state as soon as October 26th.  Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanside has announced its plans to be the first New Jersey facility to accept such wagers.

Welcome to New JerseyIn signing S2460 into law, Christie moved himself into full alignment with the state’s pro-gambling and pro-casino interests, who have sought the legalization of sports betting in the state for years as a counter to declining tourism and gambling-industry revenue.  The state is expected to drop its ongoing effort to receive a clarification of an earlier federal-court ruling which upheld the constitutionality of PASPA (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act), which federal authorities and five major American sports associations continue to assert hold sway over New Jersey’s plans.

Despite the fact that the law directly references PASPA and includes two minor tweaks from an earlier version, the five sports associations (NFL, NCAA, MLB, NBA and NHL) and the US Department of Justice are expected to seek an injunction to stop the rollout of real-money sports betting.

New Jersey State Sen. Ray Lesniak, co-sponsor of the bill and one of the foremost legislative proponents of the push for New Jersey sports wagering, celebrated the signing by Christie on Twitter:

Christie signed my sports betting legislation see you at Monmouth Racetrack Oct 26

— Senator Ray Lesniak (@SenatorLesniak) October 17, 2014

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The complete text of the statement released by Governor Christie’s office:

Senate Bill No. 2460, which I have signed today, codifies a partial repeal of criminal and civil prohibitions against sports wagering similar to that which the Acting Attorney General of New Jersey earlier recognized as having been accomplished by the previously enacted Sports Wagering Act. This bill closely adheres to controlling federal law, fully responds to the issues raised by the federal courts, and remedies the concerns requiring my veto of Senate Bill No. 2250 earlier this year.

As I explained when I returned Senate Bill No. 2250 without my approval, I am a strong proponent of legalized sports wagering in the State of New Jersey. As a result, in January of 2012 I signed into law a comprehensive licensing and regulatory regime authorizing sports wagering. The State defended that law vigorously in the federal courts, including an unsuccessful petition to the Supreme Court of the United States.  Regrettably, that comprehensive regime was ultimately enjoined by the courts under the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), requiring the State to pursue a different path to eliminate New Jersey’s prior prohibition against sports wagering.

As the Acting Attorney General concluded in a September 8, 2014 Law Enforcement Directive and Formal Opinion, the provisions of the Sports Wagering Act effecting a partial repeal of the civil and criminal prohibitions against sports wagering were severable from the provisions enjoined by the federal courts. Indeed, the federal courts held specifically that New Jersey is not required to maintain a ban on sports wagering, and that sports wagering can occur absent a ban. This bill codifies a partial repeal similar to that previously recognized by the Acting Attorney General, and does so in a manner acknowledged by the federal court of appeals to be lawful, thus avoiding another costly and unnecessary legal battle over the continued effectiveness of the Sports Wagering Act’s repeal provisions.

Importantly, this bill also improves upon critical concepts and resolves technical issues in Senate Bill No. 2250. For example, this bill specifies that certain college sport contests or athletic events shall not be the subject of wagering, as the New Jersey Constitution mandates. Likewise, it specifies that the repeal only extends to wagers by persons who are 21 years of age or older. Finally, this bill also repeals the January 2012 law in its entirety, thereby adding certainty and clarity to the law.

I have always maintained that PASPA represents an unsound and exclusionary policy. But so long as PASPA remains in effect, New Jersey must abide by and respect its requirements. This bill does just that. Accordingly, I sign Senate Bill No. 2460 into law.

Date: October 17, 2014

(signed) Chris Christie
Governor

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