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NJ Gov. Chris Christie OK's Casinos, Racetracks To Offer Sports Betting

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during a news conference on Jan. 9, 2014, at the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during a news conference on Jan. 9, 2014, at the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J.  (AP)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie issued a directive Monday allowing his state's casinos and racetracks to offer sports betting without fear of criminal or civil liability.

The governor said he took his cue from previous federal court rulings that found that nothing in New Jersey law prohibits the casinos and horse racing tracks from offering sports betting.

His action is likely to be challenged in court by the professional and collegiate sports leagues that fought New Jersey's efforts to overturn a ban on sports betting in all but four states. That effort ended with the U.S. Supreme Court declining to hear the case.

Christie, however, said casinos and tracks can start offering betting immediately.

"Based on the arguments of the sports leagues and the United States Department of Justice, the 3rd Circuit has already ruled that New Jersey can carry out sports wagering as described in today's statewide directive," the governor's office wrote in a statement. "The motion simply would clarify and formalize that authority and give clear guidance to casinos and racetracks waiting to open a sports pool in New Jersey."

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The professional football, baseball, basketball and hockey leagues, as well as the national Collegiate Athletic Association, all opposed New Jersey's effort to legalize sports betting, saying it could give the appearance that the integrity of the games has been compromised.

The move is a turnaround for Christie, who initially seemed resigned to defeat once the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear New Jersey's appeal.

Christie vetoed a bill in August that would have pushed New Jersey to circumvent a federal law banning gambling on professional and college sports in the state. Christie said at the time disagreed with the court decision but feels the law is "sacrosanct."

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