Art of Persuasion

STATE — New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie opposed sports betting and online gambling but he could not resist the arguments of Democratic state Sen. Ray Lesniak of Union County, who convinced the governor of their economic benefits.

Both men were ranked among the 25 most influential figures on the Juice List, the Star Ledger’s annual ranking of the most influential people in New Jersey sports compiled by sports columnist Steve Politi, posted last week by

The list that includes athletes such as New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, as well as big name coaches and professional sports team owners; Christie and Lesniak were the only two elected officials chosen.

Lesniak was chosen for leading a movement to legalize sports betting in New Jersey. When first elected in 2009, Christie was unwilling to join a federal lawsuit filed by Lesniak to overturn a law banning sports betting in all but four states. In 2013, the governor has vowed to take another suit all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary to bring legal sports betting to the Garden State.

Lesniak shepherded through measures to put a successful referendum on the ballot and legalize sports wagering in New Jersey, but would-be gamblers must wait for legal action to determine whether they will be able to place their bets on sports events.

In March, a federal judge ruled against New Jersey’s sports betting law, saying that it violates a 1992 federal law that restricts sports wagering. The state appealed the ruling, arguing in June that the federal law unfairly favors four states that are allowed to offer sports gambling.

The governor was named to this list for his impact on the cleanup efforts after various scandals in the Rutgers athletic department and his anticipated presence at the biggest sporting event of next year, the 2014 Super Bowl at Met Life Stadium.

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