Christie is the reason NJ is dragging its feet on sports betting
What do we do with Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey who not long ago wanted his state to be the East Coast’s all-inclusive gambling Mecca but now appears to be main impediment toward accomplishing that goal?
What do we do with a governor who keeps moving the goal line after others in his state do all the heavy lifting to get sports betting and online gambling legalization into the red zone?
What do we do with someone who by all indications is now in a holding pattern as he waits to see if he’ll be picked for either vice president or a cabinet position in a Romney Administration?
Other than applying public pressure, the answer to all three of the above is: Nothing.
Make no mistake. Chris Christie is the reason that New Jersey is dragging its feet on a court challenge to the federal law which limits single-game sports betting to Nevada. And he’s the reason that N.J. is missing a golden opportunity to become the first state in the country to provide portals for online gambling. A quick phone call to his attorney general, and Dobermans from his attorney general’s office could begin the process of dismembering the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.
More than six months have passed since the voters of New Jersey authorized Christie to move on PASPA, and more than four months have expired since the legislature passed (and Christie signed) enabling legislation. Since then, crickets.
Whispers that the right wing of the Republican Party had chopped off the PASPA court challenge at its knees have now grown into a symphony. Despite his unique style (shout down and ridicule anyone who publicly challenges him), Chris Christie is at his core just another politician with ambition, and in today’s Republican Party anyone with aspirations beyond his or her own state line needs to pass certain social right-wing litmus tests.
Vetoing a bill that would have legalized gay marriage in New Jersey was a good start, but the ravenous moral right would certainly look with disdain if Christie is perceived to be leading the charge on any type of gambling legalization.
So why is Christie holding his state’s gambling interests hostage?
He’s running for vice president?
He wants a job in a Romney cabinet, perhaps taking charge of abolishing the Dept. of Education or Energy?
Sheldon Adelson says he won’t write any checks to Romney if Christie doesn’t behave?
It’s hard to pick the money ball out of the above three scenarios, but it’s unlikely that Christie would find any kind of fulfillment as an anonymous Cabinet secretary. All the signs indicate that despite his earlier denials, he’s fully on board if Romney wants him on the ticket.
The gay marriage veto, the 180 on sports betting and a recent decision to reject New Jersey’s enrollment in a plan that would have included the state in lower-cost health care collectives are three nice boxes to have checked off when the moral police begin vetting him for a VP slot. And don’t minimize the effect that his out-of-the-blue April trip to Israel might have on Adelson, a hard-right pro-Israel supporter.
In Romney-like fashion, Christie has been all over the map on gambling issues. Early in 2011 Christie refused to back Ray Lesniak’s independent challenge to PASPA, giving the court reason to toss out the suit. And shortly after that Christie stopped an online legalization bill in its tracks with an unexpected veto.
Christie will point out that he backed the November 2011 sports betting referendum that placed the state on record as backing a PASPA challenge, but the governor’s endorsement came only a few days before the vote, at which point passage was guaranteed. A revised online gambling bill is now making its way through the legislature, but already Christie has stunned backers with negative comments.
“We were told that the Atlantic City casinos have not made the case that Internet gaming is good for them,” a somewhat befuddled state Sen. Ray Lesniak was quoted as saying after a meeting with Christie’s staff. “Sen. [Jim] Whelan and I were stunned. We were led to believe that there were only technical issues to clear up.”
Lesniak had worked with Christie’s office for months to dynamite any objections the governor had in the bill that was vetoed in March 2011, and clearly felt that the legislation was on the right track. Then he found that Christie had changed the rules after the game had started, while others were left to wonder if everyone should just wait until this fall, when Christie might be packing his bags for D.C. and the state might have a new, less-obstructive, governor.
In a Fairleigh Dickinson poll released a few days ago, New Jersey residents overwhelmingly (60-26) are in favor of the legalization of sports betting.
Chris Christie, however, answers only to one state resident -- the man he sees in the bathroom mirror each morning.