TRENTON – State Senators Raymond J. Lesniak and Jeff Van Drew, the prime sponsors of legislation authorizing sports wagering in New Jersey, and state Senator Jim Whelan, the chair of the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee, today applauded efforts by Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ-06) to amend the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) to allow New Jersey to regulate sports wagering within its borders.
“We’re thrilled to have Congressman Pallone fighting for New Jersey’s interests regarding sports wagering in Washington,” said Lesniak, D-Union. “The current federal ban on sports wagering is unfair and arbitrary, giving preferential treatment to gaming operators in just four states, while pushing sports betting underground throughout the rest of the country. We can no longer turn our backs on the millions being spent on sports wagering in New Jersey currently, which support organized crime and off-shore betting operators.”
“It’s taken nearly a decade to get to this point, but I’m happy to see progress being made,” said Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland and Atlantic. “Between Governor Christie signing the legislation last week, and Congressman Pallone taking up the cause this week, it’s safe to say that sports wagering isn’t an issue of if, but when. By legalizing sports wagering in New Jersey once and for all, we can allow our casinos and racetracks to reap the economic rewards, but we can also step in to make sure that sports wagering is regulated and above-board, to protect the integrity of the sport.”
Van Drew noted that the State Commission of Investigation (SCI) recommended studying legalized sports wagering in New Jersey more than seven years ago.
Last week, Christie signed Lesniak and Van Drew’s legislation which will allow casinos, racetracks and joint partnerships to operate state-regulated sports wagering parlors in New Jersey. The new law will allow people over the age of 21 to place a bet on a sporting event in-person at special lounges created in casinos, racetracks or at the site of former racetracks within the State of New Jersey. The law does not permit wagers to be placed on college games that take place in New Jersey or on any game in which a New Jersey college team participates, regardless of where in the country the game takes place.
The legislation followed a November ballot referendum which amended the state constitution to authorize the Legislature to enact laws allowing sports wagering at Atlantic City casinos and at horse racetracks throughout the state. The ballot question passed by nearly a 2-1 margin.
“For Atlantic City, sports wagering has the potential to be one of the biggest tools we can offer to help reinvigorate the casino gaming industry,” said Whelan, D-Atlantic. “Independent economic analysis tells us that the economic benefit in terms of casino revenues could be in excess of $1 billion a year, with over a million in New Jersey tax revenue, and thousands of jobs being created to support legal sports wagering. Sports wagering will help diversify the gaming product coming out of Atlantic City, attracting new visitors to the resort, and I applaud Congressman Pallone for his commitment to keeping New Jersey casinos and racetracks nationally competitive.”
The bill sponsors noted that the New Jersey law, while reflecting the will of the electorate, is ultimately in conflict with the federal ban on sports wagering under PASPA. Pallone’s bill would amend PASPA to allow New Jersey to regulate sports wagering with its borders. However, if Congress fails to act on Pallone’s legislation, Lesniak said that he will continue to pursue litigation to overturn PASPA on the face of it being an unconstitutional intrusion on state’s rights.
“Whatever path results in New Jersey being able to regulate and establish sports wagering within its borders, New Jersey cannot afford to give up on this fight,” said Lesniak. “We will be pursuing our legal challenge to the federal ban on sports wagering at the same time that Congressman Pallone pushes for Congressional action on the bill to exempt New Jersey from the unfair ban. Whether we’re successful in the halls of Congress or on the floor of the U.S. Supreme Court, sports wagering will be coming to New Jersey, one way or another.”
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