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Silverman: Legalized Sports Betting May Soon Be On Tap In New Jersey

By Steve Silverman
» More Columns

He is best known as comic relief for David Letterman.

When the subject is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, you know that Letterman is going to get a cheap laugh or three.

Letterman likes to make fun of Christie because he is chubby. It's the same way we used to make friends in the 5th, 6th and 7th grade. Eventually most of us stopped doing that. It's basically cruel.

But among the smart and famous, it continues. We laugh because it's funny and it brings us back to a point in our own juvenile development that has been buried but has never completely disappeared.

Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) uses this gimmick in The Hangover whenever Alan (Zach Galifianakis) gets pulled through a car window or falls down. "Fat guy funny," he says to himself as he laughs raucously.

But Christie is more than just Letterman's overweight foil. He is challenging the powers that be in the NFL and the other pro leagues. He wants New Jersey residents and those visiting to be able to bet on professional sports.

Like they do in Nevada and three other states.

New Jersey turned down the opportunity to legalize sports betting nearly a decade ago when a window was open to bring sports betting to individual states. After that, a law called the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act took hold, preventing sports betting in any additional states.

Christie looked at this law and realized that it was without merit. You could make up whatever rationale you wanted to say that it's OK to gamble on pro and college sports in Nevada, Montana, Delaware and Oregon, but not in any other states. However, that rationale is without logic.

New Jersey, with casinos and race tracks aplenty, wants to provide sports betting opportunities as well.

The NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL have joined forces to sue the state of New Jersey. The thrust of their lawsuit is that sports betting attacks the "character and integrity" of their operations and threatens their existence.

Take about five minutes to laugh at the character and integrity aspect of professional sports. With arrests, cheating scandals, doping and steroids regularly filling the headlines, it would be amusing to see how Roger Goodell and Bud Selig define character and integrity.

Gambling on sports has been one of the primary reasons behind its growth. We're not saying it's a good thing or a bad thing, but the NFL would not be anything close to the monster it is without gambling.

It's the point spread that keeps most fans interested in a 21-point blowout in the fourth quarter. To most fans, when the Patriots are up by three touchdowns in the final two minutes the game is over. However, if you are laying 14 1/2 points, you know that the most exciting moments of the game may come on the last snap when Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton throws the ball into the end zone. If it's a touchdown and the extra point is good, you have just lost your bet. If it falls to the ground, you win.

Christie believes there's no logic to a law that allows sports gambling in a few states but not the others.

"I don't believe that the federal government has the right to decide that only certain states can have sports gambling. On what basis?" Christie said. "And it doesn't acknowledge that there is illegal sports gambling going on in every state in America, as we speak. So why is this more injurious than illegal sports gambling to the operations of the league or the NCAA?"

The NFL and the other leagues say that the proliferation of sports gambling undermines public confidence in the integrity of their sports.

It's a wonder that the powers that be can get those words out of their mouths without choking.

Goodell & Co. are probably hoping they lose their lawsuit. They know that the booming interest in sports gambling will only increase their sports' popularity.

Christie may continue to be the butt of Letterman's jokes, but he's not just a heavy-set buffoon. Old Dave has been known to have an interest in pro football himself, and he may someday (wink, wink) want to put down a wager on his beloved Indianapolis Colts.

He may have Christie to thank for it.

We're not going to suggest he should buy him a cheesecake to thank him, though. That would be cheap and wrong.

Do you think that sports betting should be legalized in New Jersey? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below...

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