The Trump administration is siding with professional sports leagues in their opposition to allowing New Jersey to offer sports betting, while Republican Gov. Chris Christie is calling the leagues "hypocrites" for opposing betting while having teams in Las Vegas.
The solicitor general's office filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court this week supporting the leagues ahead of arguments scheduled for Dec. 4.
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Christie's administration is challenging a 1992 federal law that bans gambling on sports in all but four states. Christie sees sports betting as a way to boost New Jersey's casino and race track industries.
In an interview Tuesday on HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel," Christie said the leagues "no longer have moral ground" after the Vegas Golden Knights started playing in the National Hockey League this season and the NFL's Oakland Raiders are set to move there in 2019.
"They say because we have the Giants and the Jets and the Devils that somehow we shouldn't be allowed to have gambling here because somehow it will threaten the integrity of the game," Christie said. "Well, you kidding? How isn't it threatening the integrity of the game in Las Vegas for the NHL and the NFL?"
Christie said the leagues "picked this fight, not me."
New Jersey officials say the high court should strike down a ban on sports betting in all but four states — Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana — because it wrongly forces states to enforce a regulation that Congress wants. The solicitor general argues that while Congress can't require states to enact specific laws, it can pre-empt state laws that "conflict with federal policy."
The state has been trying for nearly a decade to legalize sports betting and grab a share of the estimated $150 billion that is bet illegally on sports each year.
After being rebuffed in its efforts to regulate legal sports betting, New Jersey tried a different tactic: repealing its regulations regarding sports betting, leaving no law in place at all.
The question to be decided by the justices is: Does a federal statute that prohibits modification or repeal of state-law prohibitions on private conduct impermissibly usurp the regulatory power of states?