Christie signs sports betting bill into law

Andrew George//October 17, 2014

Christie signs sports betting bill into law

Andrew George//October 17, 2014

Just a day after it was sent to this desk, Gov. Chris Christie has signed a bill lifting the state ban on sports wagering, effectively permitting casinos and racetracks to begin taking bets on games.The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), received almost unanimous support from both houses of the Legislature this week, sending the bill onward to Christie, who signed it Friday.

RELATED: Sports betting bill heads to Christie’s desk after Assembly approval

“As I’ve said all along, I am a strong proponent of legalized sports wagering in New Jersey,” Christie said in a statement Friday. “But given earlier decisions by federal courts, it was critical that we follow a correct and appropriate path to curtail new court challenges and expensive litigation. I believe we have found that path in this bipartisan legislative effort.”

Lesniak crafted the bill after the state failed to overturn a 1992 federal law limiting sports betting to just four states, and excluding New Jersey. The four major professional sports leagues and the NCAA had challenged the state’s position then in federal court and have since filed motions again to block the state from moving forward with a directive issued last month by acting state Attorney General John Hoffman allowing casinos and racetracks to begin taking bets without fear of prosecution.

RELATED: N.J. Senate approves new sports betting bill

While it closely mirrors another Lesniak-sponsored bill that Christie vetoed back in August, this legislation slightly differs in that it imposes an age requirement of 21 to place bets and specifies that wagers on sporting events played in New Jersey or involving state-based colleges are prohibited.

Lesniak, who told NJBIZ earlier Friday morning that he felt “pretty confident” about the chances of Christie signing the bill, applauded the move.

RELATED: Lesniak ‘pretty confident’ about sports betting bill’s chances

“This will help clear away the legal obstacles and provide a clear path to finally bringing sports betting to New Jersey,” Lesniak said. “And it couldn’t happen at a more important time. It will be a lifeline to Atlantic City casinos and for the horse racing industry, creating jobs and economic opportunities that will serve the city and the state for years to come. Sports betting is now much closer to a reality in New Jersey.”

Lesniak says he believes Monmouth Park Racetrack may begin taking sports wagers as soon as next Sunday.

“The gaming industry in New Jersey is struggling. Allowing sports betting in our casinos and racetracks can give the industry a much needed boost,” Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Belleville), a bill sponsor, said in a statement Friday. “The Third Circuit court made it clear there was nothing in New Jersey law preventing the state from repealing its sports wagering ban. Lifting the ban helps us clear yet another hurdle in the ongoing battle to finally bring sports betting to the state.”


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