NJ sports betting won't be slowed by NFL opposition, Chris Christie says
Gov. Chris Christie said he is prepared to buck any opposition from the National Football League on legalizing sports betting in New Jersey, even with the NFL committed to siting the 2014 Super Bowl in the Garden State.
Voters in a statewide referendum Tuesday overwhelmingly approved allowing sports betting in New Jersey, but only if a federal ban affecting the state is lifted or repealed, with 64 percent in favor.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Thursday that the league has “a long-held unwavering opposition to gambling on NFL games,” but declined to comment on whether the 2014 Super Bowl could become leverage in stopping New Jersey’s plans.
A gaming analyst said it is possible that the NFL could dangle the Super Bowl to have New Jersey reconsider its plans.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see the NFL test the waters a bit to see what the initial reaction would be should they threaten to pull the Super Bowl,” said Christopher Costigan, publisher of Gambling911.com.
But Costigan predicted that for the NFL to actually carry out a relocation “would turn out to be a PR nightmare on their part and would go against the will of the people who have voted in favor of legalized sports betting in the state.”
A sports betting bill is being introduced in the New Jersey Senate by Union County Democrat Raymond J. Lesniak.
Christie said that if the proposal clears vetting by his administration, he “wouldn’t have any problems signing it.”
“The people of New Jersey want sports betting, which is clear to me now, by a 2-1 margin almost that they do. One of my jobs as governor is to listen to the people,” Christie said. “They’ve spoken. I’ll work as hard as I can to try to make it a reality. I want to caution the people that it’s going to be a long process. ‘’
Christie said he is aware of statements from the NFL against the proposal.
“I find this kind of funny, actually. There’s betting going on the NFL knows about every Sunday. We have betting every week, as we do for every week of every NFL season. The idea that somehow it’s more threatening to have that done publicly in a regulated manner than to have it done by organized crime and other criminals underground is kind of a mystifying position to me,” he said.
Christie said he has not been contacted by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell since the referendum was held, and added: “I’m sure that if he has a real problem with what we’re doing, he’s got my number. He’ll pick up (the phone) and give me a call.”
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