Sarlo Off-Track Wagering Bill Signed Into Law

Measure Would Help Make Horse-Racing Sustainable, Create New Economic Opportunities Statewide

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Paul A. Sarlo, a member of the Legislative Gaming Summit, which will make various changes to State law in order to promote the construction of off-track wagering (OTW) facilities and to give horse racing a tool to establish self-sustainability was signed into law yesterday by Governor Christie.

“Since its inception, off-track wagering has proven popular with horse-racing enthusiasts and has helped bring the excitement of race day to communities without the infrastructure for their own racetracks,” said Senator Sarlo, D-Bergen, Essex and Passaic. “Every year since they’ve been in operation, OTW parlors have been a proven economic success story, posting profits while other facilities are awash in red ink. This new law will help boost OTW development and create a new economic tool to help foster sustainability in New Jersey’s ailing horse-racing industry.”

The bill, S-1980, makes various changes to the State’s “Off-Track and Account Wagering Act,” to ensure that off-track wagering (OTW) facilities are being built in New Jersey. Under the previous law governing off-track wagering, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority and private racetracks were permitted to develop 15 (OTW) parlors throughout the State. Under Senator Sarlo’s bill, the 15 current permit holders will have to show progress by January 1 2012, or those permits will revert to the horsemen organizations, and if the horsemen organizations cannot show progress, the permits will go to the open market, to allow any private investor to bid on the development rights for those facilities.

The bill was approved by the Senate in November and received final legislative approval by the Assembly in December, before receiving a conditional veto by the Governor. The Legislature complied with the Governor’s conditional veto to clarify that negotiations concerning the transfer or assignment of off-track wagering licenses in the event of a potential sale or lease of a racetrack would constitute progress for the purposes of the bill; eliminate a proposal to allow municipalities to collect a one-percent tax on the proceeds of OTW facilities within their borders; and permit the New Jersey Racing Commission a level of flexibility to adopt emergency regulations to make it easier to develop an OTW facility.

“Since New Jersey enacted the OTW law in 2001, only three of the planned 15 facilities have been built,” said Senator Sarlo. “While I recognize that difficult economic times make it harder for investors to front capital for projects, off-track wagering is a proven economic engine, and could be used to bring New Jersey horse-racing back from the brink of extinction. It’s time that we break the logjam of development on OTW parlors and start promoting this tool to help bolster our horse-tracks around the State.”

The version of the bill concurring with the Governor’s conditional veto was approved by both houses earlier this month.