Lawmakers Approve Bill That Removes Obstacle To Legal Sports Betting

TRENTON – 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, was approved 35-2 by the Senate and 73-0 by the Assembly, giving it final legislative approval.

The bill (S-3113/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.

“Today’s legislative action represents the latest step in ensuring that the will of the people of New Jersey is expressed, and that we’re not going to sit back while Las Vegas and other gaming jurisdictions get all the benefits of an unfair and arbitrary ban on sports betting,” said state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Union), a sponsor of the proposal. “This bill would correct a decades old mistake, and would allow New Jersey to begin implementing sports wagering operations which would create new jobs, incentivize new economic activity in a recovering gaming sector, and create new tax revenues for the State. It would also position us to topple an unfair federal ban on sports wagering which is costing our State while boosting the gaming economy in Las Vegas, where sports wagering is exempt from the ban.”

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.

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