Gov. Chris Christie issued a directive Monday allowing New Jersey casinos and racetracks to immediately offer sports betting without fear of criminal or civil liability.
But 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.
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The governor says 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.
Christie says they can start offering it today, if they like.
The casino consolidation buffeting Atlantic City is a reaction to the ever-increasing competition from casinos in neighboring states, including Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland and Connecticut. Atlantic City's casino revenue has fallen from a high of $5.2 billion in 2006, when the first Pennsylvania casino opened, to $2.86 billion last year.