Says Report is Full of Misinformation, Authors Have Massive Conflict of Interest
TRENTON – Senator Raymond J. Lesniak, the chief architect of efforts to legalize sports wagering as a boost to tourism in Atlantic City and as a revenue source in New Jersey, said today that Governor Christie’s transition report on sports wagering was “100 percent wrong” and said that he has concerns that the transition team members responsible were more concerned with self-interests than public interest.
“Having reviewed the transition team’s report on sports wagering, I personally don’t think it’s worth the paper it’s printed on,” said Senator Lesniak, D-Union. “However, as a document intended to provide guidance to our State’s new Chief Executive, this is very dangerous stuff. I urge Governor Christie to ignore the findings in this report, and do what’s right for the people of New Jersey and the future viability of Atlantic City’s casino industry.”
Senator Lesniak said that the transition team’s recommendations on sports wagering, detailed in the New Jersey Gaming, Sports and Entertainment Committee’s Draft Transition Report from January 5, urges the Governor not to “waste state money to pursue intra-state Internet wagering or sports betting until federal laws change.” Senator Lesniak said such language is misleading, particularly when his law firm, Weiner Lesniak LLP, has filed suit in Federal District Court to overturn the federal ban on sports betting and is handling the lawsuit free of charge. Senator Lesniak also said that not pursuing sports wagering for New Jersey would mean giving up on more than $100 million in annual revenues for the State of New Jersey, and more than $500 million in gross revenue for New Jersey casinos.
“Especially since this won’t cost the people of New Jersey a dime, it seems to me to be the height of irresponsibility to not give New Jersey the same right to conduct sports betting that the federal government allows in Las Vegas.” said Senator Lesniak. “We have not asked for one red cent from the State of New Jersey in our efforts to overturn the sports wagering ban. The only thing we’re asking for is the State’s support in our efforts – by joining as a plaintiff to give legal standing to our strongest constitutional argument, that the federal ban violates the 10th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.”
Senator Lesniak added that the findings in the report are especially questionable when one reviews the Transition Committee responsible for drafting the report. Among those on the Committee is David Satz, Vice President of Government Relations for Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc.. Senator Lesniak said that given Harrah’s gaming interests elsewhere in the country – including casinos in Las Vegas, which currently have a nation-wide monopoly on sports wagering – the report’s findings in regards to challenging the federal ban on sports wagering in the rest of the country should be ignored by Governor Christie.
“It’s self-serving for the Vice President of Harrah’s Entertainment to try to torpedo our efforts to provide fundamental fairness to the people of New Jersey,” said Senator Lesniak. “Harrah’s makes a mint every year on their ability to offer sports wagering to patrons at their Las Vegas casinos, and yet Mr. Satz would call on the Governor not to make those same opportunities available to the people of the Garden State. The transition team’s recommendations on sports wagering are entirely off-base, and considering who’s making those recommendations, are steeped in self-interest over the interests of the taxpayers of New Jersey.”
Senator Lesniak said that he will continue to fight for the repeal of the federal government’s prohibition on sports wagering, whether State officials support him or not, but said that the addition of the State of New Jersey as a plaintiff could make a difference in the eventual success of his efforts.