Sports betting closer to a reality in NJ
Laws and rules prohibiting sports betting at New Jersey's casinos and racetracks would be partially repealed under a bill approved Oct. 14 by the state Senate. The full Assembly is scheduled to vote on it Thursday.
The measure also repeals permitting and licensing requirements. The issue is still being heard in the courts and it remains unclear exactly when Garden State residents could expect to legally place a sports wager.
"The sports leagues and the federal government are trying their best (to stop sports betting in New Jersey), but they're going to lose in court. A recent court ruling clearly says that the federal law does not prevent us from repealing our laws against sports betting which is exactly what we're doing at our casinos and at our racetracks," said State Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Union), who co-sponsors the bill.
According to Lesniak, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was an "open invitation" for New Jersey because it said that the state wouldn't violate the federal ban on sports betting because it only applies to "state authorized" wagers.
In 1991, New Jersey and other states were given the opportunity to reserve the right to have sports betting. States, like New Jersey, that already had legalized gambling were given until 1993 to opt-in. New Jersey did not take action.
The major sports leagues and the U.S. Justice Department are fighting New Jersey's efforts. A court date is set for late October.
"I don't even think we need that hearing. Once we get this legislation signed into law, Monmouth Park Racetrack I believe can start sports betting the next day and I'll be first in line to place a bet," Lesniak said.
It is not certain when casinos might begin taking sports bets.
"There's nothing to stop them. They're a little skittish on it because they have licenses in other states. They want a judicial ruling," Lesniak explained. "This could be a lifeline to the casinos, putting people to work and generating economic activity in a growth industry."
In September, acting State Attorney General John Hoffman decided to stop enforcing state laws prohibiting sports betting. Gov. Chris Christie vetoed an earlier version of the legislation, but Lesniak said the new bill addresses Christie's concerns because it bars the transport of sports-betting equipment across state lines, sets an age requirement of 21, and prohibits betting on athletic contests in the state or involving New Jersey colleges.
A request seeking comment on the bill was not answered by Christie's spokespeople.
Opponents of the bill said it hurts the integrity of sports leagues and opens the door to criminal activity.