The state of New Jersey plans to legalize sports wagering as early as January by defying the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. Governor Chris Christie and other New Jersey lawmakers support this on the theory that it would cut into the profits of the many illegal and offshore sports betting conglomerates in operation, and would help the state's racetracks and casinos. Post hurricane Sandy, Atlantic City is recovering from its worst revenue drop ever; legalizing sports betting could boost tourism to that area, and there are five other states that already operate outside the 1992 betting legislation.
Naturally, because they hate change and all money-making in which they are not involved, the four major sports leagues and the NCAA (so, the five major sports leagues) have filed a motion for an injunction to stop New Jersey's law from taking effect. This is the second part of a two-part hissy fit—the first saw the NCAA relocating minor championships to make a point about gambling, and what can happen when the NCAA throws its weight around. The commissioners of each league were recently questioned for a deposition related to the case, and in each interview, you see a version of the brazen condescension that comes from running a practically omnipotent (except for Bettman) sports and entertainment syndicate.
Here's David Stern, who goes for one part holier-than-thou pretend shock, and one part brute undermining:
"The one thing I'm certain of is New Jersey has no idea what it's doing and doesn't care because all it's interested in is making a buck or two, and they don't care that it's at our potential loss," Stern said when asked how the advent of sports betting in New Jersey would harm the NBA.
"And wholly apart from the fact that a governor, who's a former U.S. Attorney, has chosen to attack a federal law which causes me pause for completely different reasons since I've at times sworn to similar oaths about upholding the law of the United States," Stern continued.
Bud Selig, who's obviously so sympathetic with New Jersey's financial problems, but is also stunned that the state would resort to gambling:
"I know states need money. I really mean that," he said. "I understand all the problems. Federal government needs money, going over a cliff, cities need money. Chris Christie needs money. But gambling is so ... the threat of gambling and to create more threat is to me — I'm stunned. I know that people need sources of revenue, but you can't — this is corruption in my opinion.
"I have to say to you I'm appalled. I'm really appalled."
Roger Goodell, who has a perfectly good explanation for why it's OK in other countries, but not in New Jersey:
In his deposition, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was asked about holding games in England and Canada, countries with legalized sports gambling. The leagues contend allowing New Jersey to sanction sports gambling would damage their integrity.
"Well, we're playing in their country, we're coming to them," Goodell responded. "And we're only there for a short period of time; we're there for two or three days. It's not what we choose, it's not what we believe is in the best interests of sports, but we don't dictate the rules or the laws."
Gary Bettman, who, frankly, doesn't think New Jersey has much of a chance anyway:
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the fact that New Jersey's law exempts the state's colleges and any college games played in the state shows that lawmakers recognize gambling "isn't good for our game." He sounded confident when asked if the NHL had contemplated any changes to its policies should New Jersey's law stand.
"Not to sound flip on this point but it's inconceivable to me how we could lose this lawsuit, so we haven't been doing that," he said.
That is a lot of condescension coming from a few sports commissioners to the governor of a state, but considering which way the money flows, they're probably right to think that they outrank Christie in certain crucial ways. Except Bettman.