Governor Chris Christie has announced that he will be voting in support of a state-wide ballot referendum being held on November 8 that could see New Jersey legalise sports betting at its casinos and racetracks.
“I don’t think any of us are under the illusion that betting on National Football League games isn’t happening every week in New Jersey,” said Christie in Jersey City yesterday.
“Let’s get that economy out from underground. Let’s have the people who want to gamble on sports be able to do so legally and let’s have the people who benefit from it be the people of New Jersey and not criminal organisations.”
If approved by voters on November 8, the ballot referendum would allow horse racing tracks and casinos to take action on professional, collegiate and amateur sporting events. Operators, however, would not be allowed to offer bets on collegiate events taking place in New Jersey or involving teams from the state.
“For those concerned what I’m going to do, I’m voting yes,” said Christie. “I think it’s important for New Jersey to have this option. I don’t think it’s fair that it’s restricted to just a few states. Gaming is surrounding us everywhere.”
Christie said that a favourable vote would give New Jersey stronger ground to challenge the federal ban on sports betting currently in place under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992. Various polls put the New Jersey electorate at between 52% and 58% in support of sports betting.
Joe Brennan Jr, Chief Executive of the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association (IMEGA), told The Associated Press that Christie’s backing makes legalised sports betting in the state more likely. “Given his stature, and his previous work as the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, he’ll bring the kind of law enforcement background that will make the state a model for regulating sports wagering, and protecting the integrity of our games.”
Sports betting could become a $10 billion industry for New Jersey, generating $100 million a year in tax revenues for the state. In late September, the New Jersey Senate began drafting a sports betting bill with eyes on the November 8 referendum.