Sports betting bill heads to Christie’s desk after Assembly approval

Andrew George//October 16, 2014

Sports betting bill heads to Christie’s desk after Assembly approval

Andrew George//October 16, 2014

The Assembly resoundingly voted 73-4 in favor of legislation Thursday that would lift the state’s ban on sports betting and effectively pave the way for casinos and racetracks to begin taking wagers on games.The bill, which received nearly unanimous Senate approval on Tuesday, will now head to Gov. Chris Christie’s desk for consideration.

“Everyone recognizes the problems of Atlantic City and the racetracks,” Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Belleville), the bill’s sponsor in the Assembly, said. “This would be a tremendous boost and a historic move for the state of New Jersey to permit that kind of activity here.”

Supporters of the measure believe it helps to reinforce the directive issued last month by acting state Attorney General John Hoffman permitting casinos and racetracks to begin offering sports wagering without fear of prosecution.

While the four major professional sports leagues and the NCAA have since filed a motion to block the state from following through on the directive, lawmakers believe the legislation will work to strengthen the state’s legal position.

The legislation is the centerpiece of the latest push by the state to usher in sports wagering after losing a roughly two-year legal effort to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a federal law that limits sports betting to just four states excluding New Jersey.

The latest bill imposes an age requirement of 21 on those wishing to participate in sports betting and mandates that wagers on games played within the state or those that involve state-based colleges and universities are prohibited. Also outlawed in the legislation is the transport of sports betting equipment across state lines.

It remains unclear if and when Christie will sign the bill. Despite appearing in line with the directive issued by Hoffman, the legislation is nearly identical to a measure that Christie vetoed in August on the grounds that he felt federal law was “sacrosanct.”

State Sens. Ramyond Lesniak (D-Union) and Joe Kyrillos (R-Middletown), both primary sponsors of the bill in the Senate, issued a joint statement following the Assembly vote urging Christie to sign the measure.

“We are a short step away from getting this done and a lot closer to bringing sports betting to New Jersey,” Lesniak said. “It’s been a long, tough effort and we’ve gone up against powerful interests, but now there is an urgency because sports gaming will be a lifeline to the Atlantic City casino industry at a critical time. It will produce jobs, generate economic activity and be a long-term benefit to New Jersey. I urge the governor to sign it into law as fast he can.”

“Sports betting can assist New Jersey’s struggling casino industry and with our challenges at Monmouth Park Racetrack,” Kyrillos said. Both houses of the Legislature acted quickly to approve this critical measure and I am confident Governor Christie will join our efforts to help protect Atlantic City and Monmouth Park jobs by signing the bill into law.”


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