New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie didn't mince words when asked about the lawsuit filed by the NFL, NCAA, and other major sports leagues challenging his state's push to offer legalized sports betting.
"I think we’re going to win," Christie told reporters at an afternoon press conference. "I think we’re going to win. Because I don’t believe the federal government has the right to decide that only certain states can have sports gambling.
"On what basis? And it does not acknowledge that there is illegal sports gambling going on in every state in America as we speak," he continued.
"And so why is this more injurious somehow than illegal sports gambling to the operations of the league or the NCAA. Listen, I don’t believe it’s up to the federal government to decide what happens within the borders of a state on this issue especially when they permit other states to do it. If there was a grand nationwide prohibition there wouldn’t be an argument, but how is it sports gambling in New Jersey is going to affect the sports leagues more than it already affects the sports leagues in Nevada? It happens every day all over the state of Nevada and three other states. I don’t understand why New Jersey would make it so much worse. So I think, ultimately, I think this is going to be found to be unconstitutional. We’re going to have a long road ahead of us with the courts but we’re prepared for the fight."
Most considered the sports leagues' lawsuit an invetible step. Christie, N.J. Assistant Attorney General David L. Rebuck, and Frank Zanzuccki, Executive Director of the New Jersey Racing Commission, were all named in the complaint filed in federal court in Trenton, N.J.
The suit states: “Gambling on amateur and professional sports threatens the integrity of those sports and is fundamentally at odds with the principle … that the outcome of collegiate and professional athletic contests must be determined, and must be perceived by the public as being determined, solely on the basis of honest athletic competition.”
It cites the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which was supported by former NBA star and N.J. Sen. Bill Bradley.
Of course, sports betting goes on every day in the U.S. and throughout Europe and Asia and is estimated to be a billion-dollar industry by some. Sports betting proponents argue that legalization and regulation would actually protect the sports' integrity, more than hurt it. But the American sports leagues don't agree.
The International Sports Betting Association released the following statement in response to Monday's suit: "The International Sports Betting Association has as its mission to promote integrity in sports betting by supporting a regulated, transparent and non-discriminatory environment for responsible licensed gambling operators in the United States, Europe, Asia and all of the world’s gambling markets," ISBA Board Member and sports law professor Jeffrey Standen wrote in an email. "The federal PASPA statute, by seeking to prohibit certain states from authorizing sports wagering while permitting it in others, unreasonably discriminates among states and trespasses on traditional state prerogatives with respect to the regulation of gambling. The ISBA will join with the State of New Jersey in defending against this litigation."
In January, Christie signed into law an act to permit sports wagering at casinos and racetracks. In May, he said he expected a challenge from the sports leagues, but was confident that he could win in the long run. New Jersey got as far as publishing proposed regulations on licensing in June.
The sports leagues are being represented by the law offices of McCarter & English, LLC of New Jersey and Skadden, arps, Slate, Meager & Flom LLP of New York.