In an effort to provide a shot in the arm for the state’s foundering casinos and racetracks, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie issued a Law Enforcement Directive Monday lifting the state’s ban on sports betting and assuring said gambling venues that nobody there would have any issues with law enforcement for allowing customers to wager on sports.
Though Atlantic City has been, until recently, the east coast’s gambling mecca, sports betting has always been missing from its casinos. In 1992, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was passed in Washington, D.C., making sports betting illegal in all states except for Nevada, Delaware, Montana, and Oregon. Any state that had had legal casino gambling for the previous decade had one year to decide whether or not they wanted to be added to the exclusion list, but New Jersey opted not to participate.
Two decades later, New Jersey had a change of heart and in 2011, a referendum was passed via a statewide vote that legalized sports betting. Not happy with this, the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, and the NCAA filed a lawsuit to stop the implementation of the new law, saying it threatened the integrity of their sports (never mind all the wagering that goes on in Las Vegas and Europe, in addition to fantasy sports). The sports leagues won in federal district court and, after the state appealed, won in appeals court, as well.
As it turned out, though, the court rulings actually worked in favor of New Jersey, or so the state would interpret them. The 2011 law, called the Sports Wagering Act, said that licenses could be issued for sports wagering and that the sports betting ban in New Jersey was lifted. It also included a clause that said if one part of the law was deemed to be invalid, that didn’t mean that the entire law was invalid.
In the Directive, New Jersey Acting Attorney General John Hoffman explained that the court ruling said that New Jersey could not explicitly legalize sports betting and could not authorize a sports betting licensing regime, but at the same time, “….that court upheld the constitutionality of PASPA on the basis that it does not require States to maintain existing laws and thus does ‘not prohibit New Jersey from repealing its ban on sports wagering.’”
So, part of the Sports Wagering Act that would legalize sports betting and authorize licenses is invalid, but that does not invalidate the rest of the law. The part that says that the sports betting ban is lifted is still good, meaning that all systems are a go for sports betting in the state. The catch, if you want to call it one, is that only casinos and racetracks that are already licensed for casino gaming can offer sports betting (as new sports betting licenses are not allowed). Additionally, bets cannot be placed on sporting events taking place in the state of New Jersey nor can they be placed on games involving any New Jersey school, even if played out of state.
Essentially, the Sports Wagering Act said both that sports betting was legal and sports betting was not illegal. The first part was struck down by the court, but the second part stood. Get it? Yeah, I know.