TRENTON — In an interview set to air Tuesday night on HBO, Gov. Chris Christie calls the nation’s top sports leagues hypocrites for opposing legal sports betting at the same time Las Vegas is becoming the home to professional hockey and football teams.
“The hypocrisy is just so overwhelming,” Christie told “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” in an episode about the state of legal sports betting in America, which will be broadcast at 10 p.m. Eastern time.
“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,” the New Jersey governor continued. “Well, you kidding? How isn’t it threatening the integrity of the game in Las Vegas for the NHL and the NFL?”
Wagering on sports games is illegal under a 1992 federal law in all but four states, including Nevada. But Christie’s administration has been fighting for six years to legalize sport betting at New Jersey’s racetracks and casinos in an effort to help the state’s struggling horse-racing and gambling industries.
The state’s voters approved the plan in a 2011 referendum, and Christie has signed two laws in recent years to get around the federal ban. But the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and NCAA have successfully sued to stop the state, claiming that such a move would hurt the integrity of their sports.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case Dec. 4, and a decision is expected in 2018. Experts say if the court sides with New Jersey, that could open the door to legal sports betting across the U.S.
Like Christie, some proponents say now that the Vegas Golden Knights are playing in the NHL and the Oakland Raiders are set to move to Las Vegas, the leagues are undermining their arguments by having two teams so close to working sportsbooks.
“They no longer have moral high ground on this,” Christie said.
“Real Sports” said the NFL declined to explain its position. And the attorney for the leagues did not immediately return a message from NJ Advance Media seeking comment.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a sworn statement for the lawsuit that “if gambling is freely permitted on sporting events, normal incidents of the game, such as bad snaps, dropped passes, turnovers, penalties, and play calling inevitably will fuel speculation, distrust and accusations of point-shaving or game-fixing.”
NJ Advance Media staff writer Jonathan D. Salant contributed to this report.