Lesniak-Van Drew Resolution Urging Congress To Repeal Ban On Sports Betting Approved In Senate

Returning members of the State Senate are sworn in

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 approved by the Senate today.

“During our current national economic crisis, states need to look to all untapped revenue streams in order to balance the books and continue to provide the services that our citizens depend on,” said Senator Lesniak, D-Union. “Sports wagering could help plug some of the revenue holes the State is currently facing and provide new capital for investment in a wide variety of economic growth projects. Rather than allow this money to funnel down the drain into illegal gambling rings, the federal government should overturn the ban and allow for State regulation and oversight on sports betting.”

“At the time Congress passed the sports wagering ban, they cited the need to protect the integrity and purity of sports contests,” said Senator Van Drew. “If anything, the ban has accomplished the opposite, pushing sports wagering underground and into the hands of organized crime, and opening up sports to potential criminal manipulation. With new reports coming out every day of steroid use, criminal behavior by pro athletes, and a whole host of allegations ranging from cheating to assault with a deadly weapon, I’d say that the sports wagering ban as a way to preserve the integrity of sports has been a resounding failure. It’s time that we brought sports wagering into the light of day, where it can be regulated by gaming authorities and protected from manipulation and dishonesty.”

The resolution, S-12, approved by a voice vote in the Senate, 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, though recent reports suggest Delaware is also looking at legalizing sports wagering to boost sagging revenues during the economic downturn.

“The ban on sports wagering is a gross double standard which penalizes all but a handful of states,” said Senator Lesniak. “Any federal regulation or ban on sports wagering should be applied fairly, evenly and universally, but under the current law, some states have special carve-outs to capitalize on sports wagering. We need to scrap the current ban and start from scratch, ensuring no state has an unfair advantage in generating revenue from sports wagering.”

“If Delaware does legalize sports wagering, you can count that as the death knell to an already hemorrhaging Atlantic City gaming industry,” said Senator Van Drew. “The casino industry has been hard-hit by competition from surrounding states in recent years, and I’m very worried sports wagering in Delaware will draw away customers and possibly cause irrevocable harm on the industry. New Jersey needs a level playing field to compete with other states for gaming revenue and by overturning the federal sports wagering ban, we would make sure no State has an unfair advantage in attracting vital tourism and entertainment dollars.”

As a resolution reflecting the opinion of the New Jersey Senate, it will now be filed with the Secretary of Senate and a copy will be transmitted to Congress.

Senator Lesniak said in addition to urging Congress to overturn the 1993 ban on sports betting he would be leading efforts to bring a lawsuit against the federal government to overturn the ban in court.

“It is patently unfair that people in New Jersey today are being punished for the mistakes made by our leaders in 1993,” said Senator Lesniak. “While 1993 may not have been the right time for sports wagering, voters should be given a chance to voice their opinion at the ballot box and overturn the federal ban. Whether we fight this out in the halls of Congress, in the judicial system, or at the voting booth, we need to use every tool at our disposal to make sports wagering a reality in the Garden State.”

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