G2E 2019 REVIEW MERKUR T Governor Chris Christie T

he brash, “in-your-face” former New Jersey governor entered the arena to fellow Jersey Boy

Bruce Springsteen music. Christie confirmed his unshakeable commitment to continue the sports betting battle despite six years of multiple court losses. The U.S. Supreme Court finally heard the case in December 2017 and released its decision on May 14, 2018. Why did Christie’s legal team, led by

prominent former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson, expect victory after multiple earlier failures? Olson’s Supreme Court success rate is well documented with an impressive win percentage. His states’ rights scenario portrayed the case’s core issue as more than just expanded gambling. Based on several justices’

questions and Olson’s responses, Christie felt positive. He was surprised by Olson’s availability, expecting the leagues to have already hired him. The ruling gave every state the

ability to establish or oppose its own sports betting program. That decision negated Congress’s burdensome Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) from 1992. “I knew the leagues were wrong

and we were right. People have the right to self-determination within their own borders. Laws always catch up to cultural changes. This was clearly a states’ rights issue, not a gambling issue,” Christie said. New Jersey taxpayers never paid the $7-8 million in legal fees. The casinos shouldered the costs, which Christie called a “drop in the bucket” compared to the potential financial rewards.

52 NOVEMBER 2019 Although Christie spearheaded the

effort, his successor and new Governor Phil Murphy actually signed the official New Jersey legislation in June 2018. Murphy placed the first official bets on June 14 at Monmouth Park racetrack and Atlantic City’s Borgata hotel casino, but lost both. When asked if he felt slighted that

Murphy made that crucial first bet, Christie laughed and answered he was well-known enough. This was politics and the current office holder gets the glory or the blame for events. With high expectations, how has

sports betting fared? Very well, claimed Christie. Including Nevada’s legacy market, 13 states have launched casino, racetrack and mobile wagering sports betting operations. While New Jersey’s revenues may soon exceed Nevada’s, cooperation between both states has created two successful markets. Christie described sports books as

distinct destinations that motivate increased capital investments. He strongly criticized the “myth makers” who predicted casino ruination.

To ensure a successful sports betting program, Christie offered these suggestions:  Keep Washington D.C. away from management control. Rigorous, responsible state compliance is vital to avoiding federal intervention. Christie stated that leaving regulations to the states warns them that their legislatures are “the only ones who can screw this up because one problem will bring the federal government.”

Good regulations prevent scandal

and stop Washington lawmakers from having a talking point. Since its launch, New Jersey has not experienced one problem. However, the industry should

monitor the proposed September 2019 legislation from Senators Chuck Shumer (D-NY) and Mitt Romney (R-UT). Although the Supreme Court’s May 2018 decision struck down PASPA, its language did not ban future federal regulation that could create a national framework. Shumer and Romney’s

predecessor, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) proposed the Sports Wagering Market Integrity Act last December. In an outgoing Congress, it went nowhere, but industry leaders must oppose a second push and passage.  Do not let legislators sabotage the program with high taxes. The smart ones will set reasonable rates and practical licensing fees because of sports betting’s small profit margins. Christie called neighboring Pennsylvania a “rolling dumpster fire” and tax disaster. Their high rate burdens many operators entering the Pennsylvania market.  Make mobile a critical component. Christie said, “...on Saturday and Sunday, hundreds of people drive from Pennsylvania into New Jersey, sit at our mobile stops and make their football wagers on their mobile phones.” Also, young people carry little cash,

expecting an easy transfer of money between accounts using mobile technology. Christie’s son and his friends, who live in New York City, take

the train into New Jersey for weekly football games.  Partner with existing land casinos like New Jersey did with its internet gaming program. That will add credibility and ensure public confidence.  Expedite convenient account registration to transmit information and funds. People want to receive their winnings without traveling to the casino.  Capitalize on consumers’ desires to participate in what Christie calls a recession-proof activity. Easier betting will help average people determine their own budgets.  Introduce an in-game, real-time betting ability. Being actively involved as the game’s activity continues only adds interest and drives revenue increases.

Christie stands firm on rejecting integrity and royalty fees. He said, “I’m willing to pay the leagues exactly what Nevada has for the past 70 years... zero. They have operated without problems. Any state giving in to integrity fees is giving in to extortion.” Rights fees are only tolerable when

part of a normal business operation, but no government fees are acceptable. Christie urged leagues to sell something that consumers deem valuable the “right way.” During the final Q & A period, NIGA Chairman and National Spokesperson Ernie Stevens praised Christie’s leadership in the fight. He congratulated Christie for helping to offer another potential opportunity for tribal growth and prosperity.

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