Chris Christie Shares His Thoughts on Sports Betting with G2E Audience
Posted on: October 15, 2019, 01:34h.
Last updated on: October 15, 2019, 03:17h.
LAS VEGAS – Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took center stage at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) Tuesday morning, providing some insights from the multi-year battle he helped wage to legalize sports betting across the country.
For more than 30 minutes before a standing-room-only crowd at the Sands Expo and Convention Center, the unabashed former federal prosecutor talked about what was working well, what wasn’t, and what needs to happen next with sports betting.
He also talked about some of the myths that legalized sports betting has shattered. For example, he said he was told that sports betting would destroy brick-and-mortar casinos. Not only did that not happen, the opposite effect took place.
You look at a place like New Jersey, and you see for the first time in a long time increased capital investment from our casino partners in their buildings in New Jersey. Modernizing them, expanding, building brand-new, state-of-the-art sportsbooks that become destinations,” Christie said.
Christie said New Jersey exceeded its expectations during the first year of legal sports betting, and held up his state as the model for other states to follow when it comes to implementing sports betting. While the PASPA lawsuit was making its way through the court system, New Jersey officials expected to take about $1.5 billion in bets during the first year. The state ended up more than doubling that, he said.
In fact, in May, New Jersey beat out Nevada for the biggest monthly handle for the first time, and state officials expect to regularly beat out Nevada within a couple of years.
Sports A ‘Recession-Proof’ Industry
Christie urged G2E attendees to make it as easy as possible for people to bet. That means there needs to be an embrace of digital, an imperative in order to gain traction in the Millennial market. He noted his 26-year-old son never carries cash.
He also added that over the years, in good economies and in bad, people have always set aside money for sporting events. That presents an opportunity.
“If you make it easy, they’ll make sports gaming a part of that budget as well, no matter where we are in the economic continuum at the time,” he said. “But we got to be open-minded about it.”
Embracing mobile sports betting can turn sports betting into an economic engine for the states that opt to allow it.
Pennsylvania ‘Dumpster Fire’
Christie said not every state has handled the roll-out of sports betting well. If other states should emulate New Jersey, he said they should avoid following in Pennsylvania’s footsteps.
In his remarks, he pointed out the state for its 34 percent tax on sportsbooks’ revenues and $10 million license fee.
I mean, a rolling dumpster fire, sports gaming in Pennsylvania,” he said. “They did all the wrong things. Ridiculously high tax rate. Ridiculously high barrier to entry, and what do you have? You have every Saturday and Sunday this fall, people from Pennsylvania driving into New Jersey, sitting at our rest stops on their mobile phones, placing their sports bets, and then driving back home to Pennsylvania.”
He also urged G2E attendees to do what they can to keep the federal government from getting involved in regulating sports betting across the country. He then called on the state regulators in the audience, telling them that if they do their job correctly, they will not give the federal government the ability to get involved.
Calling Out Sports Leagues
He also criticized the major professional sports leagues, who, along with the NCAA, sought for years to stop New Jersey from enacting its sports betting legislation.
In one recollection, Christie said he had a conversation with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell about his concerns over the integrity of the sport if wagering was legalized. He said he asked Goodell why they made sure the Vegas points spreads were known, and why they handled injury reports like they did if they were so concerned about sports betting.
Christie was critical of the professional sports leagues for pursuing integrity fees, noting that Nevada sportsbooks were never asked to pay the leagues. He took a softer stance on rights fees for league data. But he urged that those types of arrangements need to happen between sportsbooks and the leagues without any government mandate.