Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie addressed last week’s G2E in Las Vegas with some thoughts on the regulation of sports betting and a call for the industry to embrace opportunities with due care and responsibility. In his speech he talked about the threat of federal regulation, the importance of mobile and the part that New Jersey can play as a sports betting model for the whole of the US.
“We have a lot of work to do,” he told delegates. “The first and I think most important thing – and I know I come at this from the perspective of a former governor – is that we need to keep the federal government out of this business. When you’re looking at Washington DC right now do you think anything would be improved?
“I don’t care whether you’re a Republican, a Democrat or an independent or completely agnostic. I think one thing we can all agree on is that getting Washington involved in anything that really matters right now is an absolute loser.”
Rigorous, responsible state regulation, warned Christie, is the only way to avoid federal intervention. “As I travel around the country talking about this issue I tell state regulators and governors all the time you are the only ones who can screw this up. This thing (sports betting) is on a path to expansion, explosion, great revenue and great opportunities for everybody involved. But, you’re the ones who could screw it up.”
He added: “For those of you who are part of the regulatory bodies in this country, the successful growth of sports betting is on you. If you responsibly, reasonably regulate the industry, to enhance growth and prevent scandal, the federal government will never have a talking point – an excuse to get into this business.
“Do we really think the equivalent of the Securities and Exchange Commission or the Federal Trade Commission is needed for sports gaming? Do we really think that somehow we’d be better off if you had to deal with federal regulators?”
Underlining the industry’s ability to function without federal intervention Christie reminded delegates that the explosion of sports gaming in New Jersey had been handled without one problem. “And it has been an enormous amount of revenue that’s being gambled every month,” he said. “In fact New Jersey now has more revenue in sports gaming per month than this state (Nevada) does.
“New Jersey is the test case for all other states about how you can do this and do it well, do it responsibly and outstrip every revenue projection we had. We’ve shown the rest of the country how to do this. How can we provide that model and ensure it’s followed across the rest of the country? Well first of all you shouldn’t need a whole lot more proof than the success you see here and in New Jersey.”
By way of comparison, Christie offered: “Let’s take a state that’s really screwed it up – Pennsylvania. I mean a rolling dumpster fire. They did all the wrong things. Ridiculously high tax rate, ridiculously high barrier to entry, and what do you have?
“You have every Saturday and Sunday this fall people from Pennsylvania driving into New Jersey sitting at our rest stops on their mobile phones, placing their sports bets then driving back home to Pennsylvania. Because there’s no real availability of sports betting in Pennsylvania even though it’s legal. Because they did all the wrong things.”
Finishing his address, the former Governor urged the industry to adopt a responsible approach going forward. “One of the things you always worry about in public life is that you’ll do something that will create unintended consequences,” he noted. “You’re never concerned about the consequences you anticipate. It’s always the truck coming from the other direction you didn’t see that you worry about.
“Do me a favor, as the nice, congenial guy I am from New Jersey. Don’t let me get hit by the truck. Don’t any of you get hit by the truck. Let’s look at the opportunity, let’s make it happen for this industry and the people across the country who want to have the freedom and the enjoyment of betting on the sports that we all get to watch and enjoy every day.”