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August 11, 2014

Gov. Christie Vetoes Latest Sports Betting Bill

By: Ifrah Law

On Friday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill that marked the latest effort to bring legal sports betting to the state’s casinos and racetracks marking another temporary setback, though the efforts may not be over.  The Governor stated in his veto message that the Third Circuit’s opinion from earlier this year striking down New Jersey’s first attempt to legalize sports betting “may not have foreclosed all legal avenues for permitting sports wagering within the state” and “the time is right to examine the Third Circuit’s opinion carefully and determine if a different approach towards sports wagering would comply with federal law.”

The Third Circuit opinion Gov. Christie is referring to was a decision from the appeals court affirming a federal district court decision in New Jersey striking down a New Jersey law that would have authorized the state’s casinos and racetracks to offer single game sports betting as conflicting with the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (“PASPA”).  In June, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition for certiorari by the State of New Jersey to review the Third Circuit’s ruling.

The same day that the Supreme Court denied certiorari, Sen. Raymond Lesniak introduced another bill to bring sports wagering to the state’s casinos and racetracks. This time the bill was designed with a different tactic designed to avoid the scope of PASPA.  Instead of authorizing the state’s casinos and racetracks to offer single game sports betting as the first law did, this bill would repeal all prohibitions from offering sports wagering.  The bill passed both houses of the state legislature by wide margins.

Although he fully supported New Jersey’s first effort to bring legal sports betting to the state and “support[s] the intentions of the Legislature” in passing this bill, Gov. Christie elected to veto the bill.  In his veto message, Gov. Christie called the legislation a “novel attempt to circumvent the Third Circuit’s ruling,” but stated that “we must respect the rule of law and the decisions of our courts.”  Gov. Christie went on to say that, “While I do not agree with the Circuit Court’s conclusion, I do believe that the rule of law is sacrosanct, binding on all Americans.”

Sen. Raymond Lesniak who sponsored this sports betting bill and has championed efforts to bring sports betting to the state has said that he will explore the possibility of a legislative override of the Governor’s veto.  A legislative override would allow the bill to be enacted without the approval of Gov. Christie, but would require a vote from two-thirds of the members of each house of the legislature and that seems unlikely.

Although Gov. Christie’s veto of this sports betting bill marks another temporary setback in efforts to bring legalized sports betting to New Jersey it does not appear to be the end of the battle. Gov. Chrisite said that he “remain[s] open to exploring legally sound ways to let the State’s casinos and racetracks offer sports wagering.”  It remains to be seen what other avenues may be taken in the state’s quest to offer sports betting, but the fight is not over yet.