Legal Sports Betting in New Jersey May Soon Be Realized

Legalized sports betting is coming to New Jersey, and it could be here as soon as this coming weekend if some people get their way… but I wouldn’t bet on it.

The latest development in what will go down in the annals as “The Garden State Sports Betting Saga” occurred on Friday when Governor Chris Christie signed the latest piece of sports betting legislation to pass the state legislature (certainly not the first and perhaps not the last), which authorizes sports betting at New Jersey’s racetracks and casinos.

New Jersey’s efforts to legalize sports betting has been a long, arduous, journey; a journey that is still not over despite Governor Chris Christie signing of S 2460 on Friday, which was introduced by State Senator Raymond Lesniak. The new bill addressed the governor’s previous concerns with a similar sports betting bill passed just a month ago, S 2250 – which Christie vetoed.

In a statement by Governor Christie’s office, released following the signing, the governor stated that the new bill, “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.”

In addition to signing the bill, Governor Christie also withdrew the state’s federal court challenge regarding a 2013 decision that went against New Jersey (more on that in am moment), calling it “moot” now that S 2460 had been passed.

Following the signing Senator Lesniak tweeted out:

However, this fight is likely far from over, as several people pointed out on Twitter:

History of New Jersey sports betting

Beginning in 2009 New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak has been on a mission to bring legalized sports betting to the Garden State, and it’s been Lesniak’s tenacity on this issue that has New jersey in the position it finds itself in today.

Lesniak first proposed legalizing sports betting in 2009, and that legislation was eventually passed by the legislature, and then the public as a referendum in 2011. However, this is where New Jersey ran into its first snag as the NCAA and several professional sports leagues challenged the new law as a violation of the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).

The ensuing court case, Christie v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. Unfortunately, the SCOTUS declined to hear the case in June.

New Jersey was on the losing end of a February 2013 U.S. District Court ruling and September 2013 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling before the SCOTUS decided to pass on the case, so the previous rulings stood and New Jersey’s PASPA challenged was declared dead.

Undeterred, Lesniak introduced a new bill, S 2250, which would repeal New Jersey’s state laws against sports betting, ostensibly allowing private businesses in the state to offer sports betting without any involvement by the state itself. Lesniak had effectively found a loophole to get around PASPA, as PASPA disallows states from being involved in sports betting – under Lesniak’s bill private businesses would handle all aspects of sports betting.

However, Governor Christie vetoed that bill in August, insisting that New Jersey must abide by the law of the land.

Roughly a month later Christie issued a directive legalizing sports-betting in the state and calling on the federal courts to clarify their 2013 PASPA ruling against New Jersey. Christie’s course change led to S 2460 being introduced.

This all led to Friday’s announcement that Christie has signed Lesniak’s modified sports betting bill and withdrawn the federal court challenge.

Still, the fight over legalized sports betting in New Jersey is far from over, but at this point New Jersey seems to have the upper hand as they chase the King around the chess board looking for the elusive checkmate.

While more challenges are expected, it should be pointed out that at least one sports league czar, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, apparently sees the writing on the wall, and views sports betting as something that is inevitable and should be embraced by the leagues.

In September, Silver told Bloomberg, “It’s inevitable that, if all these states are broke, that there will be legalized sports betting in more states than Nevada and we will ultimately participate in that.”

Whether or not Silver’s peers in charge of the other professional sports leagues and the NCAA have come to the same conclusions remains to be seen.

About the Author

Steve Ruddock

Steve is a seasoned veteran of the online gambling industry, having written about it from every possible angle in his many years as a freelance gaming writer. Based in Massachusetts, Steve especially focuses on regulatory and legislative news coverage pertaining to the U.S. market.