TRENTON – Senator Raymond J. Lesniak, D-Union, the sponsor of legislation to pave the way for sports betting as a revenue source for New Jersey, issued the following testimony in support of his proposal, which was discussed in the Senate Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee today:
“In 1992 Congress passed a law that made residents in New Jersey and 45 other states second class citizens. And when it allowed sports betting in Nevada and three other states, while giving New Jersey a one year window to adopt sports betting or forever be banned from permitting it, Congress did more than make us second class citizens. It violated the Constitution of the United States of America.
“I have asked the Corzine Administration to file suit declaring the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) unconstitutional. If it chooses not to take up this cause, I will file suit myself on behalf of plaintiffs with standing to challenge the federal law.
“The federal ban violates the uniformity requirement of the Commerce Clause. ‘The desire for uniform regulation of commerce was perhaps the single biggest catalyst for the Constitutional Convention…Many delegates to the Convention…feared that Congress would use the commerce power as a means of discriminating in favor of some states at the expense of others’. 91 Va. L. Rev. 249, 254. (April, 2005). Since our current U.S. Supreme Court gives considerable weight to original intent, the time is right to take up this challenge.
“I have also written to the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States alerting it to the imminent lawsuit and asking that it be discussed at its June conference. Other states are likely to support our efforts if we take the lead.
“The potential impact of legal professional sports betting in New Jersey is huge. The finding of the New Jersey Assembly Tourism and Gaming Committee in 2004 that it would raise $5-8 million tax dollars a year is way low. The Committee extrapolated from Nevada’s data. But tourists don’t go to Nevada for sports betting. They go there for casino gambling. On the East Coast, sports gamblers either bet illegally through ‘bookies’ or the Internet. The revenue to be generated from those bettors is much greater.
“I’ve recently come to believe that professional sports betting could be the salvation of horse racing in this state and across the nation. Just as snow boarding saved the ski industry, sports bettors would be attracted to our racetracks. Unlike casino gambling, horse racing is an athletic event like other sports. Sports betting and horse racing are a perfect fit.
“Horse racing is dying and taking its $1 billion dollar industry, 19,000 jobs and open space used for horse farms in Monmouth and Ocean County to the grave with it. We can not and should not continue to subsidize it. We should revitalize it or let it go.
“Sports betting is a reality. Let’s put it to good use and tell Congress New Jersey will no longer allow it to discriminate against our residents.”