The state Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a bill to remove New Jersey’s statutory ban on sports betting, advancing the latest effort to allow casinos and racetracks to take wagers on games despite being turned aside in court earlier this year.The measure, which was approved 27-1 with bipartisan support, is scheduled to be considered Thursday by the Assembly.
Lawmakers say the bill prohibits the transport of sports betting equipment across state lines, sets an age requirement of 21 and prohibits betting on contests in the state or involving New Jersey colleges. Sports betting would be allowed at casinos and racetracks.
In a news release Tuesday, bill sponsors said it reinforces last month’s directive by the state attorney general ordering law enforcement to not enforce the state’s law prohibiting sports betting, seemingly aiming to maneuver around the 22-year-old federal ban on the practice in all about four states. New Jersey had sought to overturn the law, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, after its attempt to legalize sports betting was challenged by the four professional sports leagues and the NCAA.
That led to a two-year legal battle that culminated in New Jersey losing at the appellate level and the U.S. Supreme Court declining to hear the state’s case. But state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) said the opinion by a U.S. District Court judge was 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.
The leagues have again filed a motion in court in an attempt to prevent the New Jersey attorney general from following through on its directive. Lesniak said removing the law from the books will give the state’s legal position more authority and will help withstand any more challenges.
Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation to allow sports betting in New Jersey in 2012, following a voter referendum on the issue that passed the year before. Following its defeat in court, he vetoed a similar bill authored by Lesniak earlier this year, but supporters have renewed hopes for this effort.
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