Third Anniversary of Legal Sports Betting in NJ
On May 14, 2018, while in the locker room at Suburban golf course, I received a call from Monmouth Racetrack CEO Dennis Drazin who told me the United States Supreme Court had upheld my legislation authorizing sports betting in New Jersey and declared the federal ban on sports betting (PASPA) unconstitutional. I gave up my golf game that day and called my legislative colleagues to thank them for supporting my quest which began eleven years prior!
Although virtually no legal “expert” believed I had a chance, Dennis Drazin and the President of an internet company, IMEGA, Joe Brennan, agreed to join my lawsuit in federal district court. I convinced Governor John Corzine to intervene in the State as a plaintiff, but in the meantime he was replaced by Chris Christie who declined my request to substitute for the no longer Governor Jon Corzine, a fatal decision for our case. Christie later vetoed my legislation authorizing sports betting in New Jersey but, after threats of an override by Republican legislators, agreed to sign a similar bill. He eventually came on board when the Legislature put a Referendum on the ballot to amend our Constitution to permit sports betting. It didn’t need Governor Christie’s signature, just a ⅗ vote by both the Senate and Assembly. The voters approved it by a 2-1 margin.
Before I went to court, my first gambit was to write to our Congressional delegation to introduce legislation to repeal PASPA. I got no response from Democrats or Republicans. No one wanted to take on the NFL, the other professional sports leagues, and the NCAA.
The NCAA went so far as to cancel its tournaments in New Jersey as long as we pursued legalizing sports betting. I said that by using that standard the only state they will be able to have tournaments when we win will be Utah. Ironically, Utah is one of the states that has taken advantage of our Supreme Court victory legalizing sports betting in America.
The NFL was my biggest opposition. Why? Because it wanted to get a piece of the action. That’s why. After all, it had a stake in fantasy football betting. That’s not sports betting? And they played two games in the UK and one in Mexico City where fans were betting on the games from the stands. Now, because of legal sports betting their franchises are worth billions more.
With sports betting legal, New Jersey’s casinos came to life quickly exceeding Nevada’s sports betting numbers. Three casinos reopened and more than 10,000 jobs were restored and racetracks were saved from having to close.
Many say my sports betting victory is the crowning achievement of my public life. I don’t know about that, but it is for those employed in the thousands of jobs it saved and created. It certainly is also for the state treasury. I’m just glad my perseverance won the right for legal sports betting in New Jersey and the entire country.
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