NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Well over 100 NFL and major-college football games have been played since Gov. Chris Christie’s Sept. 8 order that racetracks and casinos in New Jersey won’t be prosecuted if they accept wagers on sporting events. Yet so far not a cent has been bet while legal issues await resolution. A look at questions and answers about what lies ahead:
Q. Why hasn’t anyone offered sports betting yet and what needs to happen for them to start?
A. Racetracks and casinos are awaiting a federal judge’s ruling early next month, or, possibly, further action by New Jersey’s Legislature.
Q. What is the judge likely to rule?
A. U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp, sitting in Trenton, is expected to rule whether, in light of a federal appeals court ruling, his injunction last year that stopped New Jersey from establishing and regulating sports gambling still allows it here as long as it isn’t state-regulated.
Q. Have the four major professional sports leagues and the NCAA, who sued Christie in 2012 to stop sports gambling, filed any legal action since Sept. 8?
A. Not yet. They have declined to comment on Christie’s order, but likely are waiting for Shipp’s ruling or further legislative action.
Q. If non-state-regulated sports gambling is allowed in New Jersey, could casinos and racetracks still be prosecuted under federal law if they take bets?
A. Possibly, according to some experts. The federal Wire Act of 1961 makes it a crime for anyone to “knowingly use a wire communication facility for the transmission in interstate or foreign commerce of bets or wagers or information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest.” The federal appeals court judges wrote that sports wagering “substantially affects interstate commerce” because professional and college sports are a “fundamentally national industry.”
Chicago-based attorney Larry Walters, an expert in gambling law, said in an email that “a judicial exemption for sports betting activity under state law would not resolve the risks of prosecution by the Department of Justice, under federal law.”
Q. Could what Christie did on Sept. 8 have been done by New Jersey years ago, rather than mounting a costly (and unsuccessful) court challenge to the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act?
A. It’s possible, but the federal appeals court’s ruling last November opened the door when the judges wrote in a 128-page opinion that “we do not read PASPA to prohibit New Jersey from repealing its ban on sports wagering.”
Q. Who is likely to offer sports gambling first if the legal hurdles are cleared, and will it be full-scale, Las Vegas-style sports betting?
A. Monmouth Park Racetrack officials have indicated they want to start taking bets as soon as possible, and are working with a sports betting firm and have prepared a room to be used as a sports book.
Q. Is New Jersey’s repealing its laws prohibiting sports gambling comparable to other states’ legalizing marijuana?
A. A key difference is that in both Colorado and Washington, the first two states to allow legal marijuana sales for recreational use, the industry is regulated and taxed by the state. But as in New Jersey’s effort to legalize sports betting, both states have sanctioned an activity that is still considered illegal by the federal government.
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