Chris Christie Inducted into Sports Betting Hall of Fame

Chris Christie Sports Betting Hall fo Fame

Surprisingly for a governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie is a lifelong fan of the Dallas Cowboys.

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been inducted into the Sports Betting Hall of Fame. Christie, who served as governor of New Jersey from 2010 to 2018, is the first politician to be included in the Hall. The induction ceremony for Gov. Christie will take place in April.

The two sides in American politics have wildly different opinions of the former New Jersey governor, but regardless of one’s opinion on other issues — if ever a politician deserved inclusion in a gambling Hall of Fame, it is Chris Christie. The governor waged a 6-year legal battle with the major American sports leagues to bring legal sports betting to New Jersey.

The state’s lawyers lost 5 separate court decisions in the case, leading many pundits and some lawmakers to call for Christie to end the legal battle. One critic described the campaign “quixotic”, while most critics suggested Gov. Christie was wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on legal bills which would never pay off.

Despite that, Chris Christie chose to appeal the fifth losing decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. As always, legendary (and expensive) constitutional lawyer Ted Olson argued the case for New Jersey. On May 14, 2018, the US Supreme Court ruled in New Jersey’s favor, vindicating Christie and ushering in a new era of legal sports betting in the United States.

Sports Betting Worth Billions to New Jersey

Ultimately, the SCOTUS decision will be worth hundreds of millions — and eventually billions — of dollars to New Jersey’s treasury. It also transformed the US sports betting industry, creating a historic opportunity for casino operators and sportsbook software companies to launch new business ventures.

In seven months of legal bookmaking in 2019, New Jersey casinos and racetracks won $319 million in sports wagers via land-based sportsbooks and live sports betting apps. Many of the wagers came from out-of-state bettors, because the Meadowlands Racetrack & Sportsbook is across the Hudson River from New York City.

Monmouth Park Racetrack & Sportsbook is an hour away from New York City in Oceanport, so many New Yorkers made sports bets in New Jersey gaming venues.

The induction ceremony takes place in April 25 in Manhattan, though the Sports Betting Hall of Fame is in the United Kingdom. Besides being the first politician to enter the Sports Betting Hall of Fame, this is the first time the London-based organization which decides who gets into the Hall of Fame has inducted an American.

How New Jersey Got Sports Betting

People might wonder how a single legal case received 6 decisions in the US legal system. In fact, New Jersey’s sports betting campaign was two separate legal battles. In a 2011 statewide referendum, New Jersey voters supported legal sports betting for Atlantic City casinos and New Jersey pari-mutuel racetracks.

At the time, New Jersey was reeling from the Global Recession and the destruction of Hurricane Sandy. The state wanted to bolster tax revenues, but also to support its flagging casino industry and horse racing industry.

The decision was to challenge the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), a 1992 law which banned sports betting in 46 states. Four states — Nevada, Montana, Delaware, and Oregon — had their previous pro-sports betting laws grandfathered into PASPA. Nevada had full legal sportsbooks, while the other three states had sports lotteries.

Sports Leagues Sue New Jersey

When the Christie administration tried to implement regulated sports betting in 2012, five major American sports associations — NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, and NCAA — sued to stop implementation. The case went to Judge Michael Shipp’s US District Court in Trenton, New Jersey.

Judge Shipp ruled in favor of the sports league and New Jersey appealed the case to the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. A three-judge panel in the appellate court upheld Judge Shipp’s ruling, so New Jersey appealed to the US Supreme Court.

In June of 2014, the Supreme Court rejected New Jersey’s case, thus seeming to end New Jersey’s campaign for sports betting.

New Jersey’s Second Attempt

The dissenting judge in the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in his dissenting opinion that New Jersey had a way forward, though. He suggested that New Jersey repeal its sports betting regulations, then allow Atlantic City casinos and New Jersey racetracks to operate in an unregulated sports betting environment.

Because the federal government cannot commandeer US states to enforce federal laws, New Jersey could launch a (technically) legal sports betting industry if it simply looked the other way. The New Jersey legislature repealed the 2012 sports betting laws, then Monmouth Park and William Hill agreed to launch a sportsbook in Oceanport in October 2014.

The sports leagues immediately sued Monmouth Park, William Hill US, and the State of New Jersey. The case went to Judge Michael Shipp’s court again, and he ruled against New Jersey. Christie appealed to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals again. New Jersey lost a fourth decision.

En Banc Ruling against New Jersey

Next, Chris Christie appealed for an “en banc” ruling by the appellate court. En banc means every active judge (12) in the 3rd Circuit would rule on the decision, instead of a simple 3-judge panel. The 12-member panel agreed to hear the case, but eventually ruled 10-2 against New Jersey.

At this point, the Christie administration appealed to the US Supreme Court. Since the court has rejected a similar appeal only two years before, most experts thought New Jersey’s case was doomed. Instead, the SCOTUS agreed to hear the case.

On December 4, 2017, Ted Olsen argued New Jersey’s case in the matter of Christie v. NCAA. Six months later, the US Supreme Court voted 6-3 to strike down PASPA. The case is now known as Murphy v. NCAA, because Phil Murphy had become New Jersey government in the interim.

NJ Senate President Stephen Sweeney

An honorable mention should go to New Jersey State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who shepherded the sports betting bills through the New Jersey state legislature. If the state did not have bipartisan support for sports betting, Christie never could have faced down federal authority and won the groundbreaking case.

In fact, Sweeney’s apologists would note that Chris Christie originally vetoed the bill that would have repealed New Jersey’s sports betting laws. At the time, Christie was thinking of a run for president and backed away from an issue that might make him look ineffective. When the legislature tweaked the bill, Christie signed the repeal into law two months later.

Whatever the case, Chris Christie showed tremendous political courage in sticking with a fight in which New Jersey lost time and again. The former New Jersey governor showed the kind of vision that earns a person a place in a Hall of Fame. Congratulations.