New Jersey Preparing for Fight over Sportsbetting Law

Written By Janice Doughtrey

Despite opposition from the major sports leagues, New Jersey is moving forward with plans to legalize sportsbetting at casinos in Atlantic City and racetracks across the state.  The legislature of Governor Chris Christie received support from the voters to defy a federal law that bans sportsbetting outside of Nevada, Oregon, Montana, and Delaware despite opposition from the NCAA and the big four professional sports leagues.

The big leagues are making the claim that sportsbetting will challenge the integrity of games with viewers and gamers believing athletes are throwing away games due to bribes.  The NCAA has already announced it will not allow its championship games to be hosted in New Jersey if this law is enacted, and has already removed the women’s regional basketball tournament and the Division III wrestling championship from the state.

New Jersey previously had the opportunity to join the other four states in legalizing sportsbetting but State Senator Bill Bradley convinced the legislature not to enact the proposed law.  Bradley and others in the government argued that sportsbetting would “turn athletes into roulette chips,” an argument now being used by sports league executives to strike down the motion.

Star-Ledger columnist Mark Di Ionno says the leagues’ claims are no longer relevant in today’s world.  He says bookies across the country already take illegal sports bets that fund organized crime, and there shouldn’t be greater risk to athlete integrity because New Jersey legalizes sportsbetting.

“Why is the threat any greater if the state, rather than the mob, runs the sports betting operation?”

The discussion is also relevant for Canada as a bill to legalize single game sportsbetting is currently in debate in Ottawa.  The professional sports leagues are making many of the same arguments north of the border as they are to the south.