Assembly Passes Sports Betting Bill

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TRENTON – The General Assembly passed legislation to allow licensed casinos in Atlantic City and racetracks to conduct wagering on professional and collegiate sport or athletic events, if a federal law is overturned, by a 54-15 vote on Thursday.

The bill (A-4385) comes after voters in the November election approved amending the New Jersey Constitution to allow sports gaming in the state, if a federal law banning it is overturned. The bill still requires Senate approval and Assembly concurrence to expected amendments.

“We want our casinos and racetracks to hit the ground running should New Jersey prove successful in overturning this unfair federal law, and this is step in the right direction” said Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “New Jersey must be on the forefront of this gaming option should the opportunity arise, and this bill will accomplish that goal. We’ll be ready to go once we work through the legislative process.”

“New Jersey voters made clear they want sports wagering, and once we work out the kinks, this bill handle it in a responsible and professional fashion,” said Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Essex). “It does the right thing for New Jersey, and will ensure our racetracks and casinos remain competitive. Our job isn’t done, but this is great economic progress for our state.”

Under the bill, the Casino Control Commission is authorized to grant licenses to operate a sports pool and the Division of Gaming Enforcement would regulate those operations, generally in line with the current duties of the commission and the division with regard to casinos and their operations.

A casino or racetrack may establish a sports wagering lounge independently at the casino or racetrack, or as a partnership between a casino and a racetrack at a racetrack location. Under the bill, a “racetrack” includes the site of any former racetrack.

Wagering on sports events will not include wagering on any collegiate sport or athletic event that takes place in New Jersey or on a sport or athletic event in which any New Jersey college team participates regardless of where the event takes place.

Wagers on a sports event could be placed in-person in a sports wagering lounge located at a casino or racetrack.

Persons placing wagers must be at least 21 years of age, and any person whose name appears on a casino exclusion list or any self-exclusion list of a casino or racetrack would not be permitted to engage in sports wagering.

A casino or racetrack will be required to demonstrate that it has the necessary financial resources to operate a sports pool. The division would promulgate the necessary rules and regulations for the conduct and operation of the sports wagering activities, while the New Jersey Racing Commission would also be involved in approving the operation of a sports pool at a racetrack and any agreement between a casino and a racetrack to jointly operate a sports pool.

In promulgating rules and regulations, the division would examine the rules and regulations currently in place in states conducting sports wagering, and would model such regulatory frameworks as far as practicable. Persons engaged in wagering activities for a casino or racetrack will be either licensed as casino key employees or registered as casino employees.

Sports wagering gross revenue realized by a casino would be subject to the existing 8 percent casino gross revenue tax, the proceeds of which are dedicated to programs for senior citizens and disabled residents, and the investment alternative tax, which results in the investment of 1.25 percent of gaming revenue in community and economic development projects across the state.

Sports wagering gross revenue realized by a racetrack would be subject to an 8 percent tax, to be collected by the division and paid to the Casino Revenue Fund to be used for the funding of programs for senior citizens and disabled residents, and also to an investment alternative tax identical to the one imposed on casinos.

Also, a percentage of the fee paid for a license to operate a sports pool will be appropriated by the Legislature to the Department of Health and Senior Services to provide funds for compulsive gambling treatment and prevention programs, with the percentage determined by the division.

“This is a well-thought out plan that allows New Jersey to take advantage of this revenue opportunity,” Burzichelli said. “Let’s face it – sports gaming is already taking place, but the only people taking advantage of it are the bookies and criminal enterprises. This bill opens the door for New Jersey to implement well-regulated sports gaming.”


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