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Sports Gambling Could Become Legal in New Jersey, Although Feds May Disagree

If all goes well, sports gambling could be legal in New Jersey this fall, at least according to the state. What the federal government will do about it is another matter - New Jersey is not one of the four states that are allowed by federal law to run betting operations on football, basketball and other sporting events.

Gov. Chris Christie expects that legal action against the state will be one result of the new regulations that will take effect shortly. "Let them try to stop us," said Gov. Christie.

Allowing sports betting, except in Montana, Delaware, Oregon and Nevada, is a violation of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. But for the last two years, New Jersey has been moving toward legal sports as part of an effort to revitalize Atlantic City. New Jersey voters have indicated in a non-binding referendum that they want legal sports betting in the state, and the state legislature passed a sports betting law last year that would allow betting at Atlantic City casinos and the horse tracks in the state. Gov, Christie did not sign the bill last year; the legislature is expected to try again this year.

Implementing sports betting is expensive, and casinos are cautious because a new sports betting operation could be shut down quickly by the federal government if it chose to enforce the law. One casino operator said, "I don't know who's going to want to be the first."

Casino executives generally supported Christie's approach, even as they cautioned that none of them wanted to be the first to set up an expensive sports betting operation, only to risk having the federal government shut it down on a moment's notice.

There are 12 casinos in Atlantic City and four racetracks: Meadowlands, Monmouth Park, Freehold, and Atlantic City. Some proponents of legal sports betting at these venues say that the revenue that would be captured by sports betting operations now goes offshore via Internet betting sites or to organized crime-affiliated illegal bookmakers. Others say that the benefit to the casinos would not come from increased revenue, but from a larger customer base.

Trade groups estimate that sports gambling is a half-trillion dollar industry in the United States.

Source:, "N.J. Gov. Chris Christie: "Let them try to stop us" from sports betting," May 25. 2012.

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