New Jersey governor Chris Christie has signed a law removing prohibitions against sports wagering in the state, he announced Friday.
On Thursday, the New Jersey State Assembly approved a bill legalizing sports betting that then went to Christie to either sign or veto.
"As I've said all along, I am a strong proponent of legalized sports wagering in New Jersey," Christie said in a statement. "But given earlier decisions by federal courts, it was critical that we follow a correct and appropriate path to curtail new court challenges and expensive litigation. I believe we have found that path in this bipartisan legislative effort."
New Jersey voters have been weighing whether to approve sports gambling since 2011, when voters approved a nonbinding referendum legalizing the practice. In 2012, Gov. Christie signed into law a bill that legalizing sports betting in the state. The major sports leagues, including the NBA, NFL and MLB, sued and said the law was in violation of the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which bans sports betting in all but four states.
U.S. District court judge Michael Shipp ruled at the time that PAPSA was in fact constitutional, and issued an injunction that prevented New Jersey from initializing the law.
According to NJ Advanced Media, betting could start as early as next Sunday at the Monmouth Park Racetrack. They also report that Christie's administration has asked a judge for clarification on the legality of him signing the law and that the law is being challenged in federal appeals court by both collegiate and professional sports leagues.
"I am pleased that our legislation removing state prohibitions on sports betting was signed into law so quickly," said State Sen. Joe Kyrillos, a co-sponsor of the bill. "Sports betting will provide a financial lifeline that will help protect jobs at Monmouth Park and Atlantic City casinos. The legislation was drafted based on guidance from federal courts, and we trust it will stand up to any future challenge."
Earlier this year, Gov. Christie ordered "the state attorney general's office not to prosecute casinos and racetracks if they offered sports betting that wasn't regulated by the state," according to the Associated Press.
Judge Shipp is expected to rule on the legality of Gov. Christie's law in November.
- Molly Geary and Will Green