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Lesniak Says Final Say On Sports Betting Should Go To Voters

Senator Says Allowing Atlantic Casinos to Take Bets Could Generate Millions in State Revenue

TRENTON – With Super Bowl weekend serving as a back-drop, Senator Ray Lesniak announced today that he will be pushing efforts to allow voters to decide if they want to legalize sports betting in the State of New Jersey.

“With the biggest sporting event of the year taking place this weekend, it’s naive to think that sports betting isn’t taking place right now in the Garden State,” said Senator Lesniak, D-Union. “But because of an act of Congress, we’ve surrendered sports betting to organized crime, off-shore casinos and Las Vegas. Why should millions of dollars go to Las Vegas, off-shore casinos and the mob? I believe New Jersey voters will want a say on this.”

Senator Lesniak announced that he will introduce legislation to allow sports betting in New Jersey. He noted that since the ban on sports betting is dictated by federal law, he will first sponsor a resolution calling on Congress to rescind the ban, noting that pressure to protect the spirit of sports from professional organizations is “disingenuous, given the number of scandals in pro sports in recent years.”

“When Congress moved to ban sports betting in the early 90’s, there was considerable pressure from the professional sports industry to limit betting as a means to ‘protect the integrity’ of their respective sports,” said Senator Lesniak. “At the same time, these sports organizations turn their backs on steroid scandals and thug behavior from players, because it puts fans in the seats. It’s hypocritical to say we need to ban sports betting to protect the integrity of the sport when the owners are tacitly endorsing so much worse.”

Senator Lesniak pointed to the fact that betting terminology for sports events has become more mainstream, with odds-makers publishing in newspapers across the country.

“When you open to the sports page in New Jersey, why do you see point spreads, odds, and over/unders?” asked Senator Lesniak. “It’s certainly not for ‘play money’ bets.”

Senator Lesniak added that the carve-out in the federal law for sports betting in Nevada gives Las Vegas casinos there an unfair advantage. He said that the current carve-out might also make the federal law vulnerable to a legal challenge, on the basis of anti-monopoly laws.

“There is a lot of money to be made on legitimate sports betting, if we’re given a chance to compete,” said Senator Lesniak. “I think if the people want it for their individual states, Congress should not stand in the way. I encourage lawmakers from other states to join New Jersey in calling for a chance to pass sports betting legislation.”

While lobbying Congress to change the federal law, Senator Lesniak will introduce a constitutional amendment to allow Atlantic City casinos and other gaming locations in New Jersey to take bets. If the bill is approved by both Houses of the State Legislature, it could go to the voters as early as this November.

“Year after year, New Jersey faces budget shortfalls which contribute to increased debt, lapsed school funding, and a shortage of funds to take care of other Statewide priorities, like health care and transportation,” said Senator Lesniak. “Sports betting is a guaranteed revenue generator which is sorely needed in the Garden State. If the voters agree with me, I see no reason why we shouldn’t be allowed to proceed with legitimizing sports betting in Atlantic City.”

Senator Lesniak conceded that, for sports betting to be a reality in New Jersey, a number of events would have to take place. Still, he said that the effort is worth it if it means new revenue for the State, and that changing attitudes about professional sports and gambling could greatly improve its chances of passage.

“I believe that sports betting is a proposal whose time has come in New Jersey, and any other state that wants it,” said Senator Lesniak. “I think there is movement in other states along these lines, and the many steroid scandals has really weakened the pedestal that pro sports has placed itself on. If I were a betting man, I’d wager on sports betting in New Jersey, sooner, rather than later.”

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