Sports Betting Regulation Best Left to States, Ex-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie Says

Posted on: April 2, 2019, 03:12h. 

Last updated on: April 2, 2019, 03:14h.

Chris Christie — the man who got the PASPA overturn rolling in his days as New Jersey’s governor when he fought for legal sports betting in the Garden State — is one of a mounting chorus of experts who think the federal government has a restricted role in state-by-state sports betting regulation now.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie wants the states to oversee sports betting regulation. (Image:

Christie recently predicted enforcement of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) reinterpretation of the Wire Act is likely not going to be a “prosecutorial priority” under the tenure of newly appointed Attorney General William Barr.

Barr took office in February, and the DOJ’s reinterpretation was released in January — though it was completed on Nov. 2, 2018, a week before Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned.

It made the Wire Act applicable to gambling and related activities that cross state lines, including lotteries.

Following the American Gaming Association’s Sports Betting Executive Summit held last week at Maryland’s MGM National Harbor, Christie said, “I’m not going to lay awake at night worrying about the new interpretation of the Wire Act,” CDC Gaming Reports said.

Christie, himself a former US Attorney in New Jersey, would like to see the act rewritten to address online gaming.

“It’s hard to predict what the DOJ will do, but I know … Barr, and I would be surprised if the DOJ brings cases against businesses using state laws,” agreed Lanny A. Breuer, a former head of the DOJ’s criminal division and currently vice chairman of the Covington & Burling law firm, speaking to CDC Gaming Reports.

Breuer said that in the reinterpretation “they spent pages and pages in a discussion of grammar.”

But in fact, “this could have a very real impact on online lotteries and everything that launched after the (2011) opinion,” he added, according to CDCGR.

AGA Survey on Sports Betting

A survey released by the AGA during the summit showed that 78 percent of Americans questioned support legalizing sports betting in their home states. Only 41 percent of those queried knew that placing a bet with a bookie was illegal.

“Consumers want the ability to wager in safe, regulated markets,” Bill Miller, AGA’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

The sports leagues garnering the most interest included the NFL, MLB, and NCAA College Football, the survey revealed.

“It’s a huge market out there. We have to be prepared for a fast-changing market,” Jason Robins, CEO at daily fantasy sports leader DraftKings, added in a statement during the summit. “The most important thing is having the bets people want, at good prices.”

In February, New Hampshire officials filed a federal lawsuit against Barr and the DOJ, a move supported by several other states. It says the reinterpretation reverses the 2011 opinion, that held the Wire Act applied only to betting or wagering on sporting events or contests, and does not apply to sales of state lottery tickets over the internet.

It also points out that all of New Hampshire’s lottery-related activities “use the internet or wires incidentally.”

Senate Proposal on Sports Betting

Last December, Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Charles Schumer (D-New York) introduced a bill to regulate sports gambling at the federal level. It was sent to the Judiciary Committee.

Christie criticized the bill, pointing out that “states have been regulating gambling for decades and have done so without incident. State regulation of casino gambling has worked. Why would it be any different for sports betting?” the former governor told CDC Gaming Reports.

Sports gambling is legal in eight states, and several more allow for online sports betting.

Last May, the US Supreme Court paved the way for sports betting when ruling on Murphy vs. National Collegiate Athletic Association, where the state of New Jersey successfully challenged the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992.