New Jersey Governor Signs Latest Sports Betting Bill Into Law (update)

Expect more litigation from the sports leagues

New Jersey governor Chris Christie has wasted no time signing bill AB3711 – an intrastate sports betting measure that has the overwhelming support of the State Legislature – into state law.

Gov. Christie gave his approval for the bill Friday shortly after it romped through the House of Assembly, but observers note that the national sports leagues remain implacably opposed to any attempt to subvert the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act and will likely expand their litigation to include the new measure.

State enforcement officials will not enforce the federal PASPA when racetracks and casinos start offering sports betting to New Jersey punters, with the Monmouth Park racetrack already signalling its intention to do so by October 26.

A racetrack spokesman said the track has already set up the necessary infrastructure.

The Associated Press news agency reports that spokesmen for Major League Baseball and the NBA, NFL and NHL have so far declined to comment on the development, and that messages left with the NCAA received no response.

And in another new development, the New Jersey State Attorney has withdrawn its request for U.S. District Court judge Michael Shipp to clarify an earlier injunction preventing sports betting, following Gov. Christie's claim that the new bill complies with federal law and answers issues raised in federal courts by the sports leagues.

"As I've said all along, I am a strong proponent of legalized sports wagering in New Jersey," Christie said in a statement. "But given earlier decisions by federal courts, it was critical that we follow a correct and appropriate path to curtail new court challenges and expensive litigation. I believe we have found that path in this bipartisan legislative effort."

State Attorney General John Hoffman had already issued a directive for the state to halt any enforcement of sports betting laws at racetracks and casinos in the Garden State.

State Sen. Ray Lesniak, who has been at the forefront of the legislative drive to bring sports betting to New Jersey, commented Friday:

"This will help clear away the legal obstacles and provide a clear path to finally bringing sports betting to New Jersey. It couldn't happen at a more important time. It will be a lifeline to Atlantic City casinos and for the horse racing industry, creating jobs and economic opportunities that will serve the city and the state for years to come. Sports betting is now much closer to a reality in New Jersey."

Most New Jersey gambling companies appeared at the weekend to be taking a "wait and see" posture on the new developments, with little overt sign that they plan to start offering bets.

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