The NCAA is "ludicrous and hypocritical" for moving five championship games out of New Jersey next year because the state plans to offer legalized sports betting, a spokesman for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said.
"The NCAA wants to penalize New Jersey for legalizing what occurs illegally every day in every state, and often with the participation of organized crime," the spokesman, Michael Drewniak, told The Associated Press. "But the NCAA looks the other way for that?"
New Jersey plans to license sports betting as soon as Jan. 9. It published regulations governing it on Monday, clearing the way for interested casinos or horse racing tracks to apply for $50,000 "sports pool licenses."
But federal law bars New Jersey from allowing sports betting, and the NCAA and the major professional sports leagues are suing to try to block it.
In the meantime, the Indianapolis-based NCAA announced Monday that it would play no more championship games in the state.
Mark Lewis, the NCAA's executive vice president of championships and alliances, said it has no choice but to find a different place to play the games: The NCAA has a policy prohibiting states with single-game sports wagering from hosting its championships.
"Maintaining the integrity of sports and protecting student-athlete well-being are at the bedrock of the NCAA's mission," he said. "We will work hard in the days ahead to find new suitable host locations which will allow the student-athletes to have the best possible competitive experience."
Drewniak noted that New Jersey's law bans betting on New Jersey college teams and on any college game played in the state.
An NCAA spokesman did not immediately return a message seeking comment Tuesday.
The collegiate association said the five championships it is moving from New Jersey to still-to-be-determined locations next year include Division I swimming and diving (scheduled for Piscataway from March 14-17); regional games in the Division I women's basketball tournament (scheduled for Trenton from March 30-April 2); Division III men's volleyball (scheduled for Hoboken from April 26-28); and Division II and III women's lacrosse (scheduled for Montclair from May 18-19).
State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, one of the biggest proponents of legalized sports betting in New Jersey, said the loss of the NCAA games is no big deal, since the state will be adding "billions of revenues for our state, our casinos and racetracks."
"And when the federal ban on sports betting is declared unconstitutional, other states will follow New Jersey's lead," Lesniak added. "The only place the NCAA will be able to have its championships played will be in Utah."