Following Supreme Court Ruling, Sweeney, Van Drew and Gopal Introduce Bill to Authorize and Regulate Sports Gaming

Senate President Steve Sweeney released a response to Gov. Phil Murphy's letter regarding the current draft of the NJ 2020 budget, a draft of which was sent from the NJ Legislature sent to Murphy for review.

Responding to the Supreme Court’s decision nixing the federal ban on sports betting, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), Senator Jeff Van Drew (D-1) and Senator Vin Gopal (D-11) today introduced legislation that would authorize and regulate sports gaming in New Jersey, putting in place the regulatory framework needed to allow casinos and racetracks to start taking bets.

For more on the court decision’s immediate impact in New Jersey, please go here.

For the larger context, go here.

And for former Governor Chris Christie’s reaction, please go here.

Governor Phil Murphy had this to say:

“I am thrilled to see the Supreme Court finally side with New Jersey and strike down the arbitrary ban on sports betting imposed by Congress decades ago. New Jersey has long been the lead advocate in fighting this inherently unequal law, and today’s ruling will finally allow for authorized facilities in New Jersey to take the same bets that are legal in other states in our country. Today’s victory would not have been possible without the incredible bipartisan effort from so many in our state, particularly former Governor Christie and former State Senator Lesniak. I look forward to working with the Legislature to enact a law authorizing and regulating sports betting in the very near future.”

The ruling by the nation’s highest court is the culmination of a seven-year effort by New Jersey to reverse the 1992 federal law that limited sports betting to only four states, effectively denying New Jersey and other states from allowing wagering on sporting events. The court’s 6-3 decision struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.

“We want to act quickly to capitalize on the Court’s decision so that we can get sports gaming in place and operating in New Jersey,” said Sweeney. “We have a competitive advantage with a long history of casino gaming including a regulatory infrastructure that has been operating for decades. It will be a natural transition to incorporate sports gaming by the casino and the racetracks.”

The bill would allow casinos in Atlantic City and racetracks and some former racetracks in the state to conduct wagering on professional and collegiate sporting events with the Casino Control Commission and the Division of Gaming Enforcement regulating the operations. Those placing wagers would have to be at last 21 years old.  Betting would be prohibited on any any collegiate athletic athletic events taking place in New Jersey and on any competitions including a New Jersey college, regardless of where it takes place. Betting on high school events would also be banned.

The legislation would provide for an eight percent gross revenue tax on in-person wagering and a 12.5 percent levy on online sports bets. The tax revenue would be dedicated to programs for senior citizens and the disabled. An additional tax of 1.25 percent on gaming revenue actually received by racetracks would be distributed to the host municipalities and counties.

New Jersey has been trying to legalize sports betting at racetracks and casinos since 2011, when 63 percent of the state’s voters approved a ballot referendum that allowed the state Constitution to be changed to permit sports betting. Major professional and college sports leagues repeatedly sued to block the state from allowing sports betting, and the ensuing legal battles have cost New Jersey taxpayers millions of dollars.

Prevented from owning or operating any sports betting facility or business will be members of sports governing bodies, as well as athletes, coaches, referees and team owners.

“The best way to protect the integrity of sports gaming is to make sure there are no conflicts of interest and no competing loyalties on the part of those directly engaged in the athletic events,” said Sweeney.

The Division of Gaming Enforcement and the New Jersey Racing Commission will have responsibility for licensing and will promulgate regulations for the conduct and operation of the sports wagering activities.  The New Jersey Racing Commission would also be involved in approving the operation of a sports pool at a racetrack.

Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-28), chairman of the Assembly Gaming Committee, hailed the decision and said he eagerly looks forward to implementing measures to make sports betting a reality in New Jersey.

“For far too long, New Jersey, a mecca of legalized casino gaming, has been left in the shadows with


regards to this issue, being held hostage to antiquated and unconstitutional federal law,” Caputo said. “There are ample benefits to having legal sports gaming in our state, and I am excited to push forward to bring more people and revenue to our racetracks and Atlantic City casinos. This will surely contribute to the renaissance of Atlantic City that we are already witnessing, make casinos and racetracks more profitable and all-in-all leave a positive financial footprint on the state. This will also add to the revenue for our state budget, so we can ensure New Jerseyans get the crucial programs and services that they absolutely deserve.”

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