NJ Acts on Racetrack, Casino Sports Betting

Gov. Chris Christie said the date will defy a federal ban and see what happens.

New Jersey will defy a federal ban and let people bet on the outcomes of football, basketball, and other games this fall, Republican Gov. Chris Christie said May 24.

Speaking at a news conference highlighting efforts to reinvigorate the Atlantic City casino industry, Christie said the regulations his administration will issue the week of May 27 make no attempt to overturn a 1992 federal law that limits sports betting to four states.

“We intend to go forward,” Christie 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. But I have every confidence we’re going to be successful.”

The United States Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

The U.S. Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act limits sports betting to four states that approved it by a 1991 deadline: Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana. At the time, New Jersey was given the chance to become the fifth but failed to act during a prescribed window.

But for the past two years, New Jersey has been moving toward implementing sports betting. A state senator from northern New Jersey tried to sue to overturn the law, but the case was dismissed.

In the fall, voters indicated by 2-1 margin in a nonbinding referendum that they want the ability to bet on sporting events. Earlier this year, the legislature passed a sports betting law, and Christie signed it. It would allow bets to be taken at Atlantic City casinos and the state’s four racetracks: Atlantic City Race Course, Freehold Raceway, Meadowlands, and Monmouth Park.

Casino executives generally supported Christie’s approach, even as they cautioned that none of them wanted to be the first to set up an expensive sports betting operation only to risk having the federal government shut it down.