Sports betting advances in New Jersey

State Sen. Ray Lesniak

State Sen. Ray Lesniak

TRENTON – Acting to remove legal obstacles in the effort to bring sports betting to New Jersey, the Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), Senator Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic) and Senator Joseph Kyrillos (R-Monmouth) that would explicitly remove language in law that currently prohibits wagering on sporting events.

The move would reinforce the state attorney general’s attempt to lift the court injunction preventing the state from moving forward on plans to allow casinos and racetracks to offer sports betting.

“This could put New Jersey at the forefront of an industry with great potential for job creation and economic growth,” said Lesniak. “The Atlantic City casino closings and job losses underscore the importance of getting this done as soon as possible. It could be a lifeline to the casinos, putting people to work and generating economic activity in a growth industry.”

The four sports leagues and the NCAA filed a motion in court in an attempt to prevent the New Jersey attorney general from following through on its directive to not enforce the state’s law prohibiting sports betting.

Removing the law from the books will give our legal position more authority and will help withstand any more challenges, Lesniak said.

The measure would prohibit the transport of sports-betting equipment across state lines, set an age requirement of 21 years old, and prohibit betting on athletic contests in the state or involving New Jersey colleges.

“As Atlantic City rebounds from the traumatic effect of casino closings, sports betting could be one of the best and more immediate opportunities to rebuild the city’s economy,” said Whelan. “Gaming will always be an important part of our attractions and sports betting will expand on it. This is good for Atlantic City, for the casino industry and the state.”

The gaming activity would also be allowed at state racetracks, helping to rejuvenate a historically important sector that is also experiencing hard times, Kyrillos said.

“New Jersey’s continued prohibition on sports betting at our casinos and racetracks is contrary to our interest of supporting employers that provide tens of thousands of jobs and add billions to our state’s economy,” said Kyrillos. “Sports betting will help set New Jersey’s wagering facilities apart from the competition and strengthen Monmouth Park and our struggling casino industry.”

New Jersey voters approved a non-binding referendum authorizing sports betting by a 2-1 margin in 2011.

The bill, S-2460, which was approved 27–1, is modeled after the Lesniak-sponsored measure vetoed by Governor Chris Christie before the lawmaker developed the legal strategy of removing the state ban.

Lesniak identified the opinion by the federal court’s Third Circuit as an “open invitation” for New Jersey because it stated that it would not violate the federal ban on sports betting since that ban only applies to “state authorized” wagers.

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