Sweeney Bill To Allow Betting On Horse Races In Bars, Restaurants Heads To Governor

Measure Would Establish Pilot Program for Electronic Wagering

TRENTON – Legislation Senate President Steve Sweeney sponsored to create a pilot program to allow off-track-betting at bars and restaurants today passed both houses of the Legislature.

The measure (S-3115) seeks to counter the slow progress being made in establishing full-scale off-track-wagering (OTW) facilities, of which only three of the 15 sites allowable under law have become operational. Sarlo said that by allowing bars and restaurant owners to place electronic betting machines in their establishments, the horseracing industry could realize the benefits of expanded simulcasting and wagering promised by the OTW law.

“The costs of creating a full-service off-track-wagering facility have proven too high a barrier to entry for us to see success, so allowing bar and restaurant owners to fill the void makes sense,” said Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem). “With new operating deals in place that will give new life to the Meadowlands and Monmouth Park, we need to make sure that horseracing has a viable future in New Jersey. Expanding OTW opportunities is an absolutely necessary part of that future.”

Under the bill, the pilot program would be limited to bars and restaurants in Bergen, Hudson, Essex, Passaic, Union, Morris, Somerset, Hunterdon, Ocean, Warren and Sussex counties, and northern Middlesex County. Up to 12 locations would be selected to participate, giving the state the full compliment of 15 OTW facilities allowable under the 2001 state law.

The cost of setting up a full-service OTW facility has been cited to be in the millions of dollars. Conversely, an established bar seeking to install electronic betting terminals could need to invest upwards of $25,000.

“We need to give horseracing every opportunity to succeed,” said Sweeney. “And part of that success lies in making it easier for both diehard and casual racing fans to follow the action.”

The bill passed the Senate 34-1. The Assembly approved the measure by a vote of 74-0. It now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature to make it law.