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Lesniak-Van Drew Resolution Urging Congress To Repeal Ban On Sports Betting Advances In Committee

TRENTON – A resolution sponsored by Senators Raymond J. Lesniak and Jeff Van Drew which would urge Congress to lift the federal ban on sports wagering was unanimously approved by the Senate Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee today.

“At a time when New Jersey is working to overcome chronic revenue shortfalls and the effects of a national economic recession, we need to identify new revenue sources,” said Senator Lesniak, D-Union. “Increased tax revenue generated by sports wagering could be used to fund a wide variety of worthy programs which might otherwise have to be eliminated given the State’s bleak budgetary picture. Giving states the authority to conduct legal sports wagering would be a good complement to any economic stimulus packages being considered by our leaders in Washington.”

“Unfortunately, the only thing that the federal ban on sports betting has accomplished is to drive these activities underground,” said Senator Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland and Atlantic. “We know that a huge sum of money is spent – illegally – on sports wagering every year in New Jersey and around the nation. We need to bring these activities out of the back rooms and into the light of day, where they can be regulated by state gaming authorities and protected from manipulation and dishonesty.”

The resolution, S-12, would urge Congress to remove the federal restriction on sports wagering which was established in 1993 under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. Under the Act, states which had casino gambling at the time but hadn’t already allowed sports wagering were given a one-year window to authorize wagering; however, New Jersey wasn’t able to pass legislation with voter approval before the deadline lapsed. The only states which are exempted from the 1993 Act are Nevada, Oregon, Delaware and Montana. Of those four, Nevada is the only state where sports wagering is conducted.

“The ban on sports wagering is arbitrary and unfair,” said Senator Lesniak. “If it’s good enough for Nevada, it should be good enough for the rest of the nation, but under the current law, there’s a double standard. Congress needs to revisit this unfair ban, and give states an opportunity to have legalized sports wagering within their borders.”

“Criminalizing sports wagering brings with it a host of other problems which cut to the very integrity of the sports that Congress was hoping to protect with the 1993 law,” said Senator Van Drew. “Some sports wagering rings have been linked with organized crime, and when large amounts of unregulated money that are involved, athletes may feel greater pressure to cut corners or cheat. Considering the steroid scandals and other controversies which have risen up in many pro sports lately, it’s obvious that the federal ban enacted in 1993 hasn’t done the job to protect the purity and integrity of sports. Congress must overturn the federal ban on sports wagering, and bring these activities under state oversight.”

The resolution now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

Senator Lesniak also noted that, in addition to urging the overturn of the 1993 ban on sports betting through Congressional action, he would be leading efforts to bring a lawsuit against the federal government, to overturn the ban in court. He said that states must use every tool they have to allow legal sports betting.

“To deny people today because of the mistakes of the past smacks of unfairness,” said Senator Lesniak. “While 1993 might not have been the right time for sports betting in the State, people today should be given an opportunity to decide at the ballot box whether to allow it. Whether we petition Congress, or bring our case to the courts, we need to pursue every avenue to give voters a voice on the issue of sports betting in New Jersey.”

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