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Sports Betting Bill Gains Senate Committee Approval

Sweeney, Van Drew, Gopal Legislation Would Follow Through on Supreme Court Victory for NJ 

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senator Jeff Van Drew and Senator Vin Gopal that would authorize and regulate sports gaming in New Jersey gained the approval of a Senate committee today, capitalizing on the state’s long-fought victory to allow sports betting.

The bill, S-2602, would put in place the regulatory framework needed to allow casinos and racetracks to start taking bets on professional sports competitions and college events that don’t take place in the state or include a New Jersey team. Licensed “sports pool” operators would also be allowed to accept wagers online. It was approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee 13-0.

“New Jersey has led the way on sports betting and we will now capitalize on our decisive Supreme Court victory by putting in place a vibrant sports gaming industry,” said Senator Sweeney. “We can now seize the opportunity with a new sector of gaming that will help create jobs, generate economic growth and be an important boost to the casino industry and horse racing.”

The Supreme Court’s landmark decision striking down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which selectively limited sports betting to four states, was the culmination of a seven-year legal fight by New Jersey to allow wagering on sporting events. The state twice enacted sports gaming laws and gained voter approval through a public referendum but had to fight the deep-pocketed opposition of the major sports organizations and wealthy team owners. The ensuing legal battles have cost New Jersey taxpayers millions of dollars.

“Legalized sports betting will be both a boon and a great new source of revenue for New Jersey, for Atlantic City and for the racetracks across the state,” said Senator Van Drew. “The business that it can bring to AC during any of these big sports events will be enormous. We fought long and we fought hard for this opportunity that will be especially beneficial to the Atlantic City region. We challenged the sports leagues and we kept up the fight despite the lower court rulings that did not go our way. We kept the faith and we won in the Supreme Court.”

As chairman of the Assembly Tourism and Gaming Committee in 2004, then Assemblyman Van Drew sponsored legislation to bring sports betting to New Jersey. And, along with then-Senator Raymond Lesniak, he was the prime sponsor of the 2012 bill signed into law to allow sports gaming but it was challenged by the major sports leagues. He also co-sponsored the 2014 bill that repealed the state’s existing laws prohibiting sports betting.

“Sports betting is a major step forward for horseracing in New Jersey, providing a significant financial boost to an industry that is so important to the state,” said Senator Gopal. “The thoroughbred industry, horse farms and horseracing have long been an important part of the state’s economy, quality of life and our identity. We want to see it thrive with the infusion of economic activity that sports gaming will bring.”

Under the bill, racetracks and former racetracks would be licensed by the Racing Commission, while casinos would receive their license from the DGE, which would be the sole agency to regulate all the sports pool operators. Employees that need licenses in order to work for sports wagering operators would be licensed by the Casino Control Commission.

Those placing wagers would have to be at last 21 years old.  Betting would be prohibited on any collegiate athletic events taking place in New Jersey and on any sports event that includes a New Jersey college, regardless of where it takes place. Betting on high school events would also be banned.

The bill would provide for an 8.5 percent gross revenue tax on in-person wagering and a 13 percent levy on online sports bets. An additional tax of 1.25 percent on gaming revenue received by racetracks would be distributed to the host municipalities and counties by the State’s Division of Local Government Services, with the same 1.25 percent surcharge on casinos going to the “Meet AC” program to promote tourism in the Atlantic City area. The tax is applied to the operator’s gross revenues – the amounts wagered minus the amounts paid out as prizes.

The legislation includes provisions prohibiting players, coaches, referees, umpires, team owners and employees and officials of the major sports organizations from having a financial interest in the wagering and from making bets on the sports in which they are professionally or financially involved.

“The betting system and the regulatory oversight will protect and promote the integrity of sports gaming,” said Senator Sweeney. “We have successful experience with the casino industry in maintaining a gaming system that has the trust and respect of everyone, including those who place their wagers. New Jersey has been a role model and that will continue as we lead the way on this new sector of gaming.”

The betting operations will be capable of opening for business soon after the governor signs the legislation, which is scheduled for approval by both the Senate and Assembly on Thursday.

The legislation would authorize the DGE and the Racing Commission to expedite their licensing process so that New Jersey can act quickly to capitalize on its “built-in” competitive advantages. New Jersey has a 40-year history of gaming experience with casinos, including a regulatory and enforcement infrastructure, Senator Sweeney pointed out, and gaming officials have been working in preparation for the favorable Court decision.

The legislation is scheduled for action by the full Senate on Thursday.