Says Federal Challenge Must Wait Until After November Referendum Passes
TRENTON – State Senator Raymond J. Lesniak, D-Union, the sponsor of a constitutional amendment to ask the voters to authorize sports wagering in the Garden State, once the federal ban on sports betting is overturned, issued the following statement today regarding federal district court judge Garrett Brown’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit to overturn the ban. According to Senator Lesniak, Judge Brown based his decision on the grounds that New Jersey voters have not weighed in on the issue yet. Senator Lesniak filed the lawsuit on behalf of the people of New Jersey, and has represented their interests pro bono through his law firm, Weiner Lesniak:
“Certainly, I’m disappointed that Judge Brown failed to consider the Constitutional issues in allowing the federal ban on sports wagering to stand. This law essentially puts New Jersey and 45 other states at a competitive disadvantage, and allows only four states in the nation – Nevada, Oregon, Delaware and Montana – to have a monopoly on legal sports book in this country.
“However, in his decision to dismiss, he left the door open for future efforts to overturn the unconstitutional ban in the courts. If voters in the Garden State approve a referendum which will be on the ballot this November to give New Jersey the authority to establish sports book at our ailing casinos and racetracks, we will essentially set up a constitutional crisis, in which the will of the people, expressed at the ballot box, will come into conflict with a flawed and ultimately unconstitutional federal law.
“I believe that when that happens, the courts will have to rule in our favor.
“I will continue working with my colleagues in the Legislature to promote sports betting as a tool to help raise needed revenues for our State and our struggling gaming and wagering industries. As soon as the voters weigh in on this issue in November, we should be ready to move, and force a decision from the federal courts on the sports wagering ban on its merits and Constitutional issues, not on a technicality.
“As such, I will be sponsoring enabling legislation, along with Senator Jeff Van Drew, to set up New Jersey’s sports wagering program as soon as the voters give their blessing. The bill won’t go into effect until after the results of the November election are certified, but by enacting this bill now, we will make sure that we do not miss a beat in our efforts to legalize this form of gambling and give standing to the lawsuit to overturn the unfair federal ban.
“Judge Brown’s decision to dismiss our lawsuit simply delays the inevitable. I am determined to continue fighting for New Jersey’s interests when it comes to sports wagering, and look forward to making our case after the November election.”