With his veto pen, Gov. Chris Christie all but ended New Jersey’s efforts to institute sports betting at its casinos and race tracks.
Christie's office announced today that he nixed a bill (S2250) that would have allowed New Jersey to circumvent the 1992 federal law that bans sports betting in most states, after New Jersey’s challenges to the law in court failed.
In doing so, Christie called federal law "sacrosanct," while the sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, said Christie “stuck a dagger in the heart of Atlantic City and our ailing horse racing industry.”
The bill — which passed the state Senate and Assembly by wide bipartisan margins — would have allowed private companies to open up wagering operations in Atlantic City casinos and the state’s harness racing tracks.
Lesniak (D-Union) said the U.S. Justice Department wrote in its legal briefs that the federal law does not "obligate New Jersey to leave in place the state-law prohibitions against sports gambling that it had chosen to adopt prior" to the law's adoption. So the measure would have repealed old state laws barring sports betting in New Jersey and allowed private companies to open up wagering operations that would not require state regulation.
Christie said he still favors sports betting, but that the state needs to "determine if a different approach towards sports wagering would comply with federal law."
“While I do not agree with the Circuit Court’s decision, I do believe that the rule of law is sacrosanct, binding on all Americans,” he wrote. “That duty adheres with special solemnity to those elected officials privileged to swear and oath to uphold the laws in our nation.”
Christie called ignoring federal law “counter to our democratic traditions and inconsistent with the Constitutional values I have sworn to defend and protect.”