The state of New Jersey has committed millions of dollars in its pursuit of legalized sports betting.
According to public records obtained by Observer, two private law firms have billed the state for $8.6 million in legal fees since 2012.
Legal bills and NJ sports betting
The main source of billing is law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. The firm has billed New Jersey for more than $7 million in its defenses of then-Gov. Chris Christie and current Gov. Phil Murphy in the NJ sports betting case.
There is some good news about the source of payments for these expenses. The New Jersey Division of Law has affirmed that the bills are paid using fees collected from casino and racetrack interests in the state.
The collected invoices do not reflect the firm’s oral arguments in front of the US Supreme Court in December. So, the total billings are certain to increase soon.
The other firm, Gibbons P.C., has billed the state legislature $1.5 million since December 2012. Gibbons has also billed the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority $77,000 in the last few years. Both billings are for ancillary defenses to the sports betting case.
Both firms have a history with Christie
The efforts of these law firms appear to be paying off for NJ sports betting. Most legal observers felt that the Supreme Court justices were leaning favorably in the state’s corner in December.
However, the fact that these two firms were retained while Christie was governor is no accident. Both firms had other business or connections with the former governor.
Gibson Dunn was Christie’s law firm during the Bridgegate investigation. Christie contracted the firm to facilitate cooperation in the investigation of political retribution against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, who did not support Christie in his gubernatorial campaign.
The firm produced a controversial report that absolved Christie of any knowledge or wrongdoing. It also denied or minimized the incident as a significant event.
The court disagreed. Three conspirators were found guilty, and two have been sentenced to jail time because of the incident. However, the scandal has not touched Christie in a court of law, though it largely destroyed his political career.
The other firm, Gibbons P.C., employs William Palatucci as its special counsel. Palatucci chaired Christie’s reelection campaign in 2013 and was general counsel for his presidential run.
Still playing the waiting game
These firms’ employment smacks of favoritism and cronyism, and $8.6 million is a sizeable figure for taxpayers of any stripe. However, the state is betting that these expenses will prove to be worthwhile, and the NJ sports betting case will end on a positive note.
The American Gaming Association estimates that legalized sports betting in the United States would generate more than $21.9 billion in total economic impact. Even a small piece of that pie would recoup the legal burden in New Jersey.
So, the best thing to do is cross fingers, and wait for the high court to rule. A decision could come as soon as next week.