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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Christie Accused of Gambling Shenanigans

(CN) - New Jersey's newest sports wagering law is yet another attempt by the state to strong-arm its way into sponsoring and promoting sports gambling at state-licensed racetracks and casinos, a federal lawsuit claims.

In a complaint filed in the federal court in Trenton, N.J., the National Collegiate Athletic Association and all four major professional sports associations charge that Gov. Chris Christie is trying to wrest control of wagering to benefit the state's beleaguered horse racing industry and the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority.

"This action challenges New Jersey's latest effort-in defiance of this court's Feb. 28, 2013 order and in clear and flagrant violation of federal law-to accomplish what it unsuccessfully attempted to do nearly three years ago: sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license, or authorize gambling on amateur and professional sports at state-licensed casinos and horse racetracks," the complaint says. "Because this effort is no more lawful than New Jersey's past ones, it, too, should be enjoined."

In August 2012, the NCAA, National Basketball Association, National Football League, National Hockey League and Major League Baseball sued the state complaining the then recently adopted New Jersey Sports Wagering Law's violated the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992.

PASPA, as it is called, specifically prevents the development of state-sponsored sports wagering.

U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp blocked the New Jersey law from going into effect Feb. 28, 2013, a decision which the divided 3rd Circuit affirmed on Sept. 17, 2013.

The state then passed Senate Bill 2250 on June 26, 2014, which "purported to 'repeal' the state's prohibitions on sports gambling, but to do so only at casinos and racetracks, which already are required to obtain a license to offer any form of gambling and to comply with scores of rules and regulations to maintain that license," according to the plaintiffs. "Gov. Christie vetoed that legislation as a transparent attempt to circumvent this court's injunction in Christie and PASPA's prohibitions."

The governor later issued a directive on Sept. 8, positing that the Sports Wagering Law "remained effective as a 'repeal' of previous statutes prohibiting sports wagering, rather than an 'authorization' of sports gambling," the complaint states.

On Friday, Christie signed Senate Bill S2460 into law, allegedly repealing the 2012 Sports Wagering Law in its entirety, and "replaced it with yet another attempt to authorize sports wagering in Atlantic City casinos and horse racetracks throughout the state.

"While styled as a 'repeal,' the 2014 Sports Wagering Law is nothing more than a de facto authorization of sports gambling," the plaintiffs claim. "Like its vetoed predecessor, the 2014 Sports Wagering Law 'repeals' all existing prohibitions, rules, and regulations that are specific to sports wagering, but does so only at Atlantic City casinos and horse racetracks throughout the state -- in other words, only at venues that are already state-licensed and regulated."

The leagues say "the state's latest attempt to authorize sports gambling is just as unlawful as its previous attempts. As the bill's practical operation reveals, its sponsors concede, and the New Jersey Constitution demands, the 2014 Sports Wagering Law is a blatant effort to authorize sports gambling at venues that are licensed and regulated by the state. It therefore violates both PASPA and this court's injunction, which prohibits the governor and other state officials from 'sponsoring, operating, advertising, promoting, licensing, or authorizing a lottery, sweepstakes, or other betting, gambling, or wagering scheme based, directly or indirectly (through the use of geographical references or otherwise), on one or more competitive games in which amateur or professional athletes participate, or are intended to participate, or on one or more performances of such athletes in such games.'" (Parentheses in original.)

The plaintiffs are represented by William O'Shaughnessy and Richard Hernandez of McCarter & English LLP in Newark, N.J.; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP in New York; and Bancroft PLLC in Washington, D.C.

O'Shaughnessy declined to comment on the case.

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