New Jersey Governor and long time sports betting proponent Chris Christie has signed legislation that will effectively remove prohibitions against sports betting at NJ-based horse racetracks and casinos.
Christie’s approval of Senate Bill 2460 follows an October 14 vote in the New Jersey Senate of 27-1, and yesterday’s overwhelming approval (73-4) by the General Assembly.
As a result of the signing, New Jersey racetrack Monmouth Park will begin accepting sports wagers on October 26 – a mere nine days after the bill’s passage.
State Senator Ray Lesniak, who over the past several years has worked perilously to circumvent a 1992 federal law that prevents sports wagering in all but four states, introduced the bill earlier this month.
He reported the landmark decision via Twitter:
Christie signed my sports betting legislation see you at Monmouth Racetrack Oct 26
— Senator Ray Lesniak (@SenatorLesniak) October 17, 2014
The passage of S2460 follows on the heels of Christie’s veto of a similar bill (S2250) in August.
At the time Christie reasoned that the courts had spoken and NJ must abide by the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).
That all changed in early-September when the Governor issued a directive via Attorney General John Hoffman, which acted as an endorsement of Sen. Lesniak’s loophole – a loophole that would navigate around the federal ban by allowing private companies to operate sports betting operations independent of the state.
S2250 was amended to include provisions that specifically prohibit anyone under the state’s legal gambling age of 21 from placing wagers. The revised bill also forbids betting on collegiate events involving New Jersey collages, as well as other athletic contests, and repeals the Sports Wagering Act.
From the Governor’s office
After affixing his signature to the bill, Governor Chris Christie issued the following statement:
“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 battleover 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