With his state’s right to run regulated sports betting currently under consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey decided to make his case directly to President Donald Trump.
In a resolution signed on July 21, which was previously approved by the New Jersey Assembly and Senate, Christie asked the Trump administration to maintain the status quo in regard to states’ rights on sports betting:
“This resolution urges United States President Donald Trump, members of President Trump’s administration, and Congress to oppose any measures and actions that would prohibit states to conduct Internet gaming.
Recent measures in Congress, if pursued by the new Congress and supported by the President and his administration, would prohibit the transmission by wire communication of any bet or wager or of information assisting in the placement of any bet or wager, including Internet gaming.”
Christie referenced an ongoing effort by conservative members of Congress known as the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA). The RAWA initiative – which has failed upon introduction several times over the last three years – would reverse an opinion rendered by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2011.
Between 2006 – when the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was authorized by Congress – and 2011, the Wire Act of 1961 was used as precedent for the federal prohibition of online gambling. Under the terms of the original Wire Act, sports bets placed via telephone were outlawed.
When Congress crafted UIGEA, they relied on the Wire Act’s strict stance to justify banning all forms of online gambling – including casinos and poker rooms along with sports betting.
The DOJ revised its opinion on the Wire Act more than five years later, determining that the 1961 law applied exclusively to sports betting. In doing so, the DOJ absolved individual states of the UIGEA’s restrictions over online casinos and poker rooms. Within two years, Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware passed legislation to create statewide iGaming industries.
In his resolution, Christie explicitly called upon Trump and his administration to preserve the states’ rights granted through the DOJ’s reversal:
“In his confirmation hearing as nominee for United States Attorney General, Senator Jeff Sessions indicated his desire to revisit the federal Justice Department ruling that currently allows the states to authorize Internet gaming.
These measures and actions would invalidate New Jersey’s implementation of Internet gaming, which the State authorized in 2013 to be conducted by Atlantic City casinos in partnership with their Internet gaming affiliates and under strict regulation and control by the State’s Division of Gaming Enforcement.”
Sessions, a longtime opponent of online gambling, stated that he was “shocked” by the DOJ’s decision to permit states to authorize their own iGaming industries.
Christie then went on to describe the potential consequences of a federal online gambling ban on New Jersey’s fledgling iGaming industry:
“A federal prohibition against Internet gaming would directly and negatively impact New Jersey by dismantling the investments that the State and Atlantic City casinos have already made to implement and regulate Internet gaming, taking away the economic and employment opportunities already realized by the State and its residents, and foreclosing the future potential of Internet gaming to generate tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue, create high-tech software jobs, and foster valuable business ventures for Atlantic City casinos in this State.”
Since launching in 2013, the collection of online casinos and poker rooms which operate legally in New Jersey have generated hundreds of millions in revenue – with tens of millions diverted to state coffers via licensing fees and annual taxes.