This afternoon New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed the bill into law making sports betting legal in the state, but Atlantic City sportsbooks won’t be writing tickets until the federal ban on sports betting is overturned.
As I Tweeted earlier
, I believe we’ll see that ban reversed sooner than later, maybe even before the year is out. New Jersey Senator Ray Lesniak has already guaranteed the fight against the feds will be won and call me a sucker for optimism, but I believe him.
While it’s true the NFL and NCAA will flex its hypocritical muscle at the political level and in the courts, just as it did during Delaware’s push for legalized sports betting in 2010, this time I believe the decision will go the way of the bettors.
Crazy? Easy to say, sure. This isn’t the first time New Jersey and other states have tried to upend the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which prohibits betting on sports for all but Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon.
But the climate for legalized wagering in various forms has changed dramatically, even since the start of 2011.
Remember back in March when Gov. Christie vetoed legislation that would have made online wagering legal in the Garden State? At the time, even the now-confident Lesniak said: "His veto message was so discouraging that I'm not particularly optimistic we can reach an agreement with regard to (Christie's) concerns."
Things went from discouraging to depressing when Black Friday came down a short time later and the Dept. of Justice began cracking down on the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006). The offshore sportsbook and poker world was flipped on its head. Sportsbooks scrambled and bettors panicked as payouts stopped and indictments were handed out.
I have to admit, at the time I felt a sense of pending doom for this industry I don’t remember experiencing back in 2006.
Fast forward, and the D.o.J. changed its stance on the 1961 Wire Act, releasing an opinion Christmas Eve that the act only prohibited online betting for sporting events, not Internet games like poker or lotteries. That’s huge progress in a law that has looked nearly impenetrable for 50 years.
Nevada’s Gaming Control Board, meanwhile, has voted to allow online poker within its state, Washington D.C. passed a law to allow online poker in April and Canada has made huge strides toward making single game sports wagering legal north of the border. If you think the latter doesn’t mean much, ask the maligned city of Detroit how it will feel when it starts watching revenue fly across the border as bettors flock to Windsor to lay their bets on the Lions on Sundays.
The point is, momentum like we’ve never seen before is happening in too many places to even mention in a short blog.
As every state struggles for more revenue in a difficult economic time, the U.S. government can no longer deny 49 states the right to make money on something it is granting to just one.
“If Congress doesn’t act soon,” Texas Rep. Joe Barton told Covers.com's
Larry Josephson in December, “we could end up with fractured rules and regulations that vary state to state, leaving more opportunity for fraud and fewer safeguards for players."
New Jersey is leading the charge. Others will follow. And the time is now to allow ourselves to start believing.
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