New Jersey’s Lesniak says the NCAA is headed for a Utah-only future


new-jersey-ncaa-sports-bettingOn Tuesday, political advocates for New Jersey sports betting hit back at the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s decision to pull all collegiate championship events from Garden State soil. The NCAA – which, along with the National Football League and the other major North American sports leagues, has filed suit to prevent New Jersey from following through on its plans to legalize single game sports betting – said the move was needed to maintain “the integrity of sports and [protect] student-athlete well-being.” On Tuesday, Gov. Chris Christie’s spokesman Michael Drewniak called the NCAA’s decision “ludicrous and hypocritical … The NCAA wants to penalize New Jersey for responsibly legalizing what occurs illegally every day in every state.”

State Sen. Ray Lesniak, the driving force behind much of New Jersey’s gambling liberalization, went further, saying the NCAA and the other leagues “can yell all they want about ‘the integrity of sports,’ but until they embrace policies to wipe out the illegal [sports]books, those are just words.” Lesniak also suggested the NCAA was on the wrong side of history and faced a bleak future as a result. “When the federal ban on sports betting is declared constitutional, other states will undoubtedly follow New Jersey’s lead. Then, the only place the NCAA will be able to have its championships played will be Utah.” (Simple remedy: swap out the ‘N’ for an ‘M’ et voilà: the Mormon Collegiate Athletic Association! Ooohhh… Competitive tithing!)

No doubt Lesniak is on the money about other states (as well as numerous gaming companies) salivating in anticipation of New Jersey tearing down that legal wall. The recent free-play online poker deal Bally Technologies struck with the Mohegan Sun group (which operates casinos in neighboring Pennsylvania and Connecticut) would also permit sports betting if those states chose to allow it. Of course, there’s the small matter of New Jersey emerging triumphant from its legal tilt with the leagues, which is far from guaranteed. But the NCAA’s pullout prompted Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association chief Joe Brennan Jr. to ponder the tea-leaves and arrive at the following conclusion: “NCAA must not like its chances in sports betting lawsuit.” From your tweets to God’s ears, Joe…

Meanwhile, the good folks at managed to catch Lesniak in between sticking pins in his NCAA voodoo doll. Enjoy.