The NCAA is fighting back against Governor Christie's sports betting law.

This past summer I wrote about New Jersey and Governor Chris Christie’s effort to enact a state regulation legalizing sports gambling in the state. As discussed in my previous post, the legalization of sports gambling in New Jersey would violate federal law that only allows sports gambling in the states of Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana. Now, the NCAA has decided to fight back against New Jersey’s decision to legalize betting on sports.

In response to New Jersey’s decision to move forward in issuing sport’s betting licenses by January, the NCAA has declared that it will move all NCAA championship events that were planned to take place in New Jersey out of the state. The NCAA supported its decision by declaring that “maintaining the integrity of sports and protecting student-athlete well-being are at the bedrock of the NCAA’s mission.” The announcement by the NCAA received bipartisan denouncement. Both Republic governor Chris Christie and Democratic lawmakers in the state of New Jersey denounced the decision and accused the NCAA of “being more comfortable abetting illegal betting run by organized crime,” according to the Star-Ledger. A spokesman for Governor Chris Christie added, “The NCAA wants to penalize New Jersey for legalizing what occurs illegally every day in every state and often with the participation of organized crime. But the NCAA looks the other way for that?” However, it was noted by Governor Christie’s spokesman that the law does not make legal betting on college games played in the state as well as games involving New Jersey college teams played out of state. Democrat state senator Raymond Lesniak also noted that the revenue lost from the NCAA events being pulled was a drop in the bucket compared to the revenue that will be gained from taxing sports gambling. Some of the events New Jersey will lose include next year’s Division I women’s basketball championship games and the Division I men’s and women’s diving championships. Nonetheless, New Jersey plans to press on.

–R.L. Florance

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7 Responses to NCAA Fights Back

  1. Mike Ritter says:

    I am confused as to why the NCAA thinks that legal gambling on games would affect the integrity of the game. Is it because they are worried that players will take bribes? There is already gambling (illegal and legal) on these games. To me is seems like a strange battle for the NCAA to get involved in.

  2. Caitlin Buckstaff says:

    Aside from the marijuana and gambling comparison the comments above discuss, I think one key (key in the sense of very poor) decision of the NCAA was to remove all championships events from New Jersey. It did so in a retaliatory manner saying it was necessary to preserve the integrity of the collegiate sports and the student-athletes participating in the events. However, such events were not cancelled or removed from states where sports gambling is legalized. For example, Las Vegas will host the Maaco Bowl for Division-1 Football on New Years Day. It seems very odd that they will remove championships in a state that is trying to legalize sports gambling, yet permit the state of Nevada (mainly Las Vegas) to host championship events. I think this factor definitely weighs against the NCAA.

  3. Ray Rufat says:

    First, I disagree with the last post regarding the differences in externalities between marijuana and gambling. The criminalization of both of these leads to organized crime controlling the market for these things. Decriminalization of marijuana would actually lead to a greater decrease in organized crime than gambling because gambling tends to be one of many enterprises for organized crime groups, while marijuana is often the sole enterprise of an organized crime group. Driving high is also not a good reason to ban marijuana. Driving sleepy probably leads to more accidents than driving drunk and driving high, but nobody is suggesting banning night time driving.

    In addition, gambling has externalities that can be just as bad or worse than marijuana. It can lead to financial ruin for families, crime in order to pay off gambling debts, etc…

    That said…there is no reason to ban gambling. People should be allowed to make risky decisions with their money. We allow people to speculate about stocks and bonds. They should be able to do the same with sports. In the same way that the market for stocks creates an incentive for insider trading and ponzi schemes, gambling creates a market for throwing games etc… It is hypocritical to ban one and not the other. Just regulate it.

  4. R.L. says:

    I don’t totally agree with Thomas. To say gambling and marijuana are the same is disingenous. While I wouldn’t completely agree, one can see differences between the two. For example, someone gambling has few negative externalities, especially when legalized, as organized crime should be reduced. On the other hand, legalizing marijuana will lead to more smoking, which will naturally lead to more driving high and likely create more avoidable accidents. Of course, one can counter that simply driving high should be illegal, but that won’t completely stop it, as one can easily see with driving drunk. Governor Christie could have easily decided he would rather not increase the incidence of driving high, or he could have made this decision for numerous other reasons. Overall, my main point is that issues surrounding marijuana and gambling legalization are only on the most superficial levels similar.

  5. Thomas McFarland says:

    I agree with both the commentators thus far regarding Christie’s and the NCAA’s motivation. To Mr. Urban’s point, I think it’s interesting to point out that Governor Crhistie’s argument that people gamble anyway and its driven by organized crime is fairly ironic since the exact same argument is espoused by marijuana advocates in New Jersey. This argument for marijuana doesn’t sit well with Mr. Christie since he has repeatedly spoken out against legalizing marijuana (in New Jersey) because the federal government deems it illegal and that’s the law. It seems like Mr. Christie enjoys having (a lot of) his cake and eating it too as well.

    As to the NCAA, I think they come out as the loser in this scenario. They routinely refer to protecting the student-athlete, but this argument might be wearing thin with a great deal of the public considering its becoming more and more obvious that money is the driving force in all things college sports (huge television contracts, conference realignments, bowl games vs. playoffs, etc.) Rather than opposing gambling outright, I think the best course of action would be a better monitoring program be put in place to ensure gambling (legal or illegal) doesn’t have an affect the product on the field/court/etc.

  6. Michael Joshi says:

    After looking at the list of championship games set to be pulled (none of which will appear to have any significant financial impact on New Jersey), my thought was that this was just the NCAA trying to have its cake and eat it too. The NCAA wants to appear to be a staunch protector of student athletes and the integrity of college sports, but also doesn’t mind enjoying the benefits of having its viewers even more invested in its product.

    That said, it does not explain the lawsuit filed in opposition to the New Jersey plan by the NCAA and the major professional sports leagues. My feeling is that, no matter what these organizations say, all of their decisions are primarily motivated by money. Why, then, would they oppose the ratings and revenue increases that would likely be associated with sports gambling? Perhaps, even though people find ways to bet on sports now, these organizations really do believe that gambling threatens the integrity of the sports and will lead to a disgruntled fan base. Or perhaps, they realize that gambling on sports is going to become the norm and are stalling until they find a way to better capitalize on it. Either way, it will be really interested to see how the NCAA and the professional leagues continue to respond to the pressures from efforts to legalize sports gambling.

  7. J.P. Urban says:

    I tend to agree with Governor Christie here. Creating a legal market for something that is thriving on the black market despite tireless efforts to stop it is at very least an idea worth trying. We saw it with prohibition, and just yesterday we saw it in Colorado. If the NCAA truly takes moral issue with New Jersey’s decision, it is naive to think its toothless ‘punishment’ is going to do anything more than force UConn’s women’s basketball team to play somewhere else this year.