Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation Friday removing prohibitions against sports betting in New Jersey.

“As I’ve said all along, I am a strong proponent of legalized sports wagering in New Jersey. But given earlier decisions by federal courts, it was critical that we follow a correct and appropriate path to curtail new court challenges and expensive litigation,” Christie said in a news release. “I believe we have found that path in this bipartisan legislative effort.”

Christie released a statement explaining that this bill corrects the critical flaws in the state Legislature’s earlier bill on sports wagering that was vetoed.

The new legislation does not allow betting on college athletics in New Jersey.

The bill also repeals the prior Sports Wagering Act.

The new law results from a 2013 ruling by United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit that found that nothing in state law prevents the state from repealing its ban on sports wagering.

Christie decision was quickly met by a barrage of praise from local politicians.

“Atlantic City is at a crossroads. Several casinos have folded and thousands of people have lost their jobs," said Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo, D-Atlantic, in a news release. "Sports betting may not be a fix-all, but it can certainly help the casinos still fighting the good fight.”

“The legal back-and-forth has the state’s casinos and racetracks watching from the sidelines, despite the governor’s directive last month authorizing sports betting in the state,” said Assemblyman JohnBurzichelli. "New Jerseyans support allowing sports betting in the state. Repealing the ban can help us get a step closer to finally making it a reality.”

But the effort faces significant opposition from professional sports leagues and the NCAA.

The leagues and the association have gone to court to try to prevent New Jersey's racetracks and casinos from taking sports bets, which Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport said it plans to begin on Oct. 26. Racetrack adviser Dennis Drazin said it has already set up an independent entity to regulate the wagering.

Spokesmen for Major League Baseball and the NBA, NFL and NHL declined to comment. Messages left with the NCAA seeking comment were not immediately returned.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Steve Hughes:

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