By Andrew Seidman

Gov. Christie on Friday signed into law a bill repealing New Jersey's ban on sports wagering, but that doesn't mean casinos will begin letting consumers gamble on football games this weekend.

Christie signed the bill, which cleared the Legislature on Thursday, as part of the state's new strategy to allow sports betting at casinos and horse racetracks.

The issue has taken on added urgency following the casino closures in Atlantic City.

The Christie administration last month declared that sports betting would be legal in the state, and the new law was drafted to satisfy the courts, which had ruled against New Jersey's last attempt to legalize sports betting.

Christie noted in a statement Friday that "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."

In 2012, the state passed a sports-wagering law, but a federal judge in Trenton issued an injunction, ruling with the NCAA and professional sports leagues.

On appeal, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit sided with the sports leagues last year, ruling that the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was constitutional. The 1992 law restricts sports betting to Nevada, Oregon, Delaware, and Montana.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear New Jersey's petition. But lawmakers saw an opening in the Third Circuit's opinion, which said the state could repeal its own ban.

New Jersey has filed a petition seeking clarification from a U.S. district judge to ensure its new strategy complies with the Third Circuit opinion.

Atlantic City casinos have held off on offering sports betting until the legal uncertainty is resolved.

The governor had vetoed a different version of the bill this year.

Under the new law, bettors could not wager on a college sports game that takes place in New Jersey, or on any game in which a New Jersey college team participates regardless of where it takes place.

The new measure also repeals the 2012 law, "thereby adding certainty and clarity to the law," Christie wrote.

(c)2014 The Philadelphia Inquirer