New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie said during a press conference on Thursday that New Jersey would soon allow individuals to place sports bets at the 12 casinos in Atlantic City and at the four race tracks across the state, ESPN reports.
Under federal law, there are only four states allowed to offer sports betting: Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon. New Jersey voters backed the move by a two-to-one margin in November’s non-binding referendum asking if they would support sports betting in the state. Christie has acknowledged that he expects the federal government to come after the state if it goes forward with the plan.
“Am I expecting there may be legal action taken against us to try to prevent it? Yes,” the governor said, ”But I have every confidence we’re going to be successful.”
Casino executives support the plan to allow sports betting, saying that it will attract new visitors to the struggling gaming resort. They are skeptical, however, about being the first to test the federal government.
“I love the idea of playing offense and having the federal government have to play defense against us,” said Tony Rodio, president of Tropicana Entertainment. “But I don’t know who’s going to want to be the first to open knowing they can shut you down.”
The move to allow sports betting has bipartisan support in the Garden State. Democratic state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, who sponsored the measure to bring sports betting to Atlantic City, said Christie’s move “represents one of the final steps in our long journey toward the repeal of an unfair and, ultimately, unconstitutional ban on sports wagering.” (VIDEO: Christie to Brooklyn-bound New Jersey Nets: ‘Good riddance’)
“To those with a vested interest in the status quo — the professional sports organizations who take a hypocritical stance that wagering will ‘ruin the purity of the game’ and the Nevada-based gaming conglomerates that have enjoyed the state’s stranglehold on sports wagering for the last 20 years — I respectfully say, ‘bring it on,’” Lesniak said in a statement. “Now that the regulations have been put forward, there’s only one step left, a showdown in the U.S. Supreme Court, where I believe we will prevail.”
Christie said he expects the state to start taking sports bets in the fall of 2012. The U.S. Department of Justice had no comment for ESPN on Thursday regarding this issue.