New Jersey sports fans could be legally wagering on NFL games as soon as this weekend as Garden State politicians do an end run around the Federal sports betting ban.

The key twist in this story is that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has finally relented to public pressure and signed a bill that removes most restrictions on sports betting in the state.

In doing so, Christie opened a path for ticket windows at Monmouth Park racetrack to accept wagers on NFL games without violating state law.

All this legislative shuffling comes in the wake the US Supreme Court’s refusal to hear New Jersey’s epic challenge against Federal sports betting prohibition.

Christie Feels the Pressure

Despite the perceived benefits to the state’s economy Christie, a former US Attorney and wannabe Presidential candidate, has been reluctant to circumvent the Federal ban in any way, shape or form.

But Christie, who vetoed this same bill a month ago, is under serious pressure to do something to save Atlantic City casino jobs. Over the past few months over 10,000 AC casino workers have been sent to the unemployment line as casino after casino shut their doors. In a recent statement to the press he described his turnaround as follows:

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.

Whether this, “bipartisan legislative effort,” will be enough to stem the bloodshed in Atlantic City is another matter entirely.

If You Build it, Will They Come?

All this political maneuvering may not be enough to lift AC out of the dumps if big name casinos don’t buy into the plan.

Monmouth Park is a relatively small, independently owned operation. Running afoul of Federal law won’t hurt their standing with out-of-state gaming commissions because they don’t have to deal with them. That’s not the case for big name AC casinos like Caesar’s and Revel.

It seems highly unlikely that any of the major players will be offering sports betting in Atlantic City any time soon.

One More Hurdle
Before NJ sports bettors get the chance to place a bet, there’s one potential legal hurdle standing in their way.

The NFL, and the other big sports leagues can file a restraining order against the state if they can prove that sports betting actually harms their business. Given the fact that legal sports wagering is already a reality in Nevada, this could be a difficult point to prove.

Atlantic City is in rough shape and New Jersey lawmakers are willing to do anything they can to make sure it survives. Given the state of Colorado recently used the same legal reasoning to legalize the sale of recreational marijuana, they could have a real shot at success.

And, as we’ve seen time and time again, once one state gets a taste of those sweet, sweet gambling tax revenues, the rest of them follow suit as quickly as they can.

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