New Jersey leaders are hoping sports betting can end Atlantic City’s losing streak.
A motion was filed in behalf of Gov. Chris Christie (R) in a U.S. District Court on Monday, and the state attorney general issued a directive, to allow casinos and racetracks to offer sports betting “without fear of criminal or civil liability,” Christie’s office said in a statement.
The move comes following a ruling by the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals that found New Jersey law does not prohibit casinos and racetracks from operating a sports pool, despite a lawsuit based on a federal statute arguing the state wasn’t able to authorize or license sports betting in 2012.
Christie had vetoed two bills last month that would have allowed sports betting, saying although he supported it, he did not want to break the federal statute. Last week, some legislators, casino workers union and the AFL-CIO were working to override his veto.
Three Atlantic City casinos have closed this year so far, including the two-year-old, $2.4 billion Revel, which Christie called a “turning point” for the city when it opened in 2012. About 5,900 jobs were lost due to the closures, representing about 20 percent of the city’s casino workforce. Two more casinos have also announced they will close.
“We’ve desperately needed innovative ideas to keep New Jersey’s gaming industry competitive, not only at Atlantic City casinos, but at our racetracks,” said New Jersey Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D) in a statement. “This is an opportunity to jump start Atlantic City and the gaming industry and generate new revenue for our state.”
State Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D) called sports betting “an economic priority” in wake of the closings last week before Christie had reversed his decision to support it.
“Atlantic City’s future would be much brighter if it includes a plan that places the city at the epicenter of a multibillion-dollar business,” he said.
Since 2006, gambling revenue in Atlantic City has fallen by 45 percent, according to a January report by the UNLV Center for Gaming Research. The decline is a result of increased competition from neighboring states which have in recent years legalized or expanded gambling, and the recession, which the city hasn’t been quick to recover from.