Lawmaker says casino owners put profits from sports betting monopoly in Las Vegas ahead of New Jersey’s economic well-being and competitiveness
TRENTON – Senator Raymond Lesniak, the chief advocate in the State Legislature for sports wagering and online betting at New Jersey’s gaming establishments, said today that he was disappointed that the New Jersey Casino Association last week came out in opposition to his efforts.
“This is a case of casino owners putting the sports betting monopoly they enjoy in Las Vegas ahead of New Jersey’s economic well-being and competitiveness, pure and simple,” said Senator Lesniak, D-Union, and chair of the Senate Economic Growth Committee. “If Atlantic City is going to remain economically viable and a revenue generator for the southern part of our State, it has to offer new gaming products, including legalized sports wagering and online betting. The fact that New Jersey casino owners are standing in the way of Atlantic City’s economic recovery has more to do with the bottom line in Nevada than it does with concern for the Garden State and its residents.”
On Thursday, the Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee held off on considering Senator Lesniak’s constitutional amendment which would allow a voter referendum to legalize sports wagering. The bill, SCR-49, would pose a ballot question to the voters to amend the State Constitution to allow for sports wagering at casinos in Atlantic City and racetracks around the State. Senator Lesniak pointed out that the constitutional amendment would be predicated on the reversal of the Federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), a law which prohibits sports wagering in all but a handful of states throughout the nation. Senator Lesniak has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn PASPA as unconstitutional.
“We’ve been talking about legalizing sports wagering since last year, and even held a hearing in Atlantic City to let stakeholders air their concerns,” said Senator Lesniak. “Other than a few individual casino owners who prefer the monopoly they enjoy in Nevada, the Casino Association as a whole remained neutral until last week. The fact that the Association has only just brought forward these concerns as the bill gains legislative momentum means they’re confident we’re going to succeed in overturning the unconstitutional, unfair federal law.”
Senator Lesniak noted that the objections to sports wagering on the part of the casinos doesn’t extend to expanding sports wagering in Nevada. On the same day that casinos urged lawmakers not to consider sports wagering legislation last week in New Jersey, Tropicana Las Vegas announced an agreement to have Cantor Gaming, an affiliate of Cantor-Fitzgerald, run their new Internet sports book set to open this fall.
“It’s absolutely hypocritical for casino owners to say sports wagering isn’t right for Atlantic City, and at the same time expand sports wagering operations in Las Vegas,” said Senator Lesniak. “It should be up to the people of the Garden State to decide for themselves if they want to allow a revenue-generating activity likes sports wagering to be legal here. It’s sad that casinos are putting their interests in Las Vegas ahead of the economic future of Atlantic City, but at the end of the day, I expect that voters will support our efforts to maintain the resort’s competitiveness and status as the gaming capital of the North East.”
The resolution is pending consideration in the Assembly Regulatory Oversight Committee and in the full Senate. It was approved by the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee by a vote of 4-0 with one abstention in February.