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OpinionColumnistsLane Filler

Filler: I'm rooting for Chris Christie on sports betting

Nassau Regional Off-Track Betting has hired a Las

Nassau Regional Off-Track Betting has hired a Las Vegas research group to provide consulting advice as it prepares to build a mini-casino with 1,000 video slot machines and table games. Credit: Nancy Borowick, 2012

One bet related to the possibility of sports betting in New Jersey that I know I’ll win: I’d wager anything my boss won't let me leave work in time to make it to Atlantic City before Monday Night Football kicks off tonight.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie issued an order just before noon that his state’s casinos can now begin accepting wagers on sporting events, as long as they aren’t college games and aren’t taking place in the state. In the wake of that announcement, I and plenty of other people who would bet on sports if it were legal (because what kind of sociopath would do so while it isn’t legal, right?) are anxiously Googling driving distances to see how fast we can be in the Garden State turning our hard-earned money into mulch for the state’s failing economy.

And the state needs it. By the end of the year, four Atlantic City casinos will have closed in 12 months, taking with them thousands of jobs and leaving a once-hot strip of business as abandoned hulks.

Whether or how soon the casinos will actually be taking these bets is hard to say. Christie is not acting unilaterally: The Jersey legislature approved legalized sports gambling this year, although the governor issued a veto (now reversed) in August.

But there is a federal law that forbids sports betting other than on horses and dog racing, in all but four states. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to that law by New Jersey recently and Christie, first cowed by that refusal, now seems to determined to treat it as permission rather than a balking of his plan.

Every libertarian bone in my body says the practically random network of gambling restrictions the states and nation have imposed are nonsensical and anti-liberty.

Every action-craving blood cell in my body screams “Sports gambling is fun and exciting, when practiced in moderation.”

For New York, this could also create serious gambling complications. The Empire State just legalized casinos recently, more than 30 years after Jersey. Now Jersey is looking to expand, not just into new wagering areas, but into new geographical areas. There’s talk in the state of taking casinos past Atlantic City and into the rest of the state, which would include a huge facility directly across the river from New York City. New York’s current gambling plan and laws don’t allow a casino in the city for at least seven years, and exactly how it treats sports gambling is murky.

This is about revenue, all of it, but it’s happening because Americans are sick of things being legalized that they mostly don’t oppose and often enjoy. Marijuana and gambling lead the list.

I don’t know how far Christie will get on this, or how quickly. He may well be a long shot. But I’m rooting for him all the way, because he’s right, and because laws, like prohibitions on weed and betting, that don’t actually prevent anybody from betting and smoking, can be more corrosive to society than the vices themselves.

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