Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie delivered a keynote address at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas this week, and gave advice to states looking to authorize sports betting.   The former Governor played a key role in the legalization of sports betting by successfully litigating the unconstitutionality of the federal law (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992) that had prohibited such wagering in states other than Nevada.  Since sports betting has become legal in New Jersey, the state has had tremendous success surpassing the state of Nevada with regard to gross revenue derived from the activity. This success has led to increased capital spending on “new state of the art sportsbooks” and an increase in jobs in the state’s casino industry, according to Christie. 

During his presentation, former Governor Christie advised states looking to implement sports wagering to model themselves after New Jersey’s approach, rather than the approach taken in Pennsylvania (with a high rate of taxation and a high license fee).  Christie stated that every Saturday and Sunday during football season, he has seen people from Pennsylvania and New York driving to New Jersey, stopping at rest stops and placing bets on their mobile phones before heading back. He noted that this demonstrates that New Jersey got it right in their approach.   “We’ve shown the rest of the county how to do this,” he said. “Pennsylvania is a state that screwed it up, I mean a rolling dumpster fire. . . .”

The former Governor suggested that states should avoid high tax rates on such a low margin betting offering, and suggested that large up front licensing fees as a barrier to entry are also a key mistake that states can make.   He suggested that allowing mobile wagering without the need for patrons to be physically present in the casino is also important.   Although he expressed strong opposition to sports leagues being paid any type of integrity fee, Governor Christie noted how critically important it will be for states to have rigorous regulatory systems in place to avoid any problems, and to make sure that federal lawmakers do not seek to get involved.   He noted that the entire topic is truly a “states’ rights” issue, and noted that regulation is best handled on a state by state basis.


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