Former governor Christie opposes federal sports betting bill

The former governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, has called on lawmakers to resist a bill that would give the federal government the power to regulate the US sports betting industry.

Speaking at the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States conference in New Orleans, the Republican said that individual states could handle the job of legislating betting themselves. He also urged lawmakers to resist granting the major pro and college US sports leagues ‘integrity fees’ which amount to a cut of betting revenues.

Christie instigated the court battle against these leagues that ended with the US Supreme Court clearing the way for states to decide whether or not to offer sports gambling.

“We’re going to reward the people who fought us for seven years with fees that are going to diminish your margins?” said Christie.

“They don’t need it, and given their conduct over the last seven years, they don’t deserve it. We do not need a federal solution to this problem. States have been regulating gambling for decades without incident.”

Most of the US major leagues are known to favour federal regulation of sports betting because it would be easier to administer than a patchwork of state-by-state regulations.

Christie was responding to a bill introduced last month by Democratic senator Charles Schumer and Republican senator Orrin Hatch that would give the federal government control of regulating sports betting. The bill proposes that the US Justice Department would set minimum standards for states to offer sports betting. It does not explicitly guarantee the sports leagues will receive “integrity fees”, but neither does it prohibit them, either.

Dan Spillane, senior vice-president of the National Basketball Association, said it was understandable that the leagues should ask for integrity fees because they bear the costs of providing the content on which betting takes place. “We don’t think this is an unreasonable ask, or something that’s going to cripple the industry,” he said. “We bear the brunt of the risk if things go sideways.”

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