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Sweeney, Whelan Tout What Sports Betting Would Mean to NJ During March Madness

Senate President Steve Sweeney addresses the full Senate for the first time in the 216th Legislature.

Assemblyman Mazzeo, AC Mayor Guardian Join Senators

ATLANTIC CITY – Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senator Jim Whelan and Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo joined by Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, today highlighted what legalized sports betting would mean to both Atlantic City and New Jersey’s economy, specifically during March Madness. They did so at the iconic Irish Pub in Atlantic City.

“If New Jersey had sports betting, March Madness would bring millions of dollars into Atlantic City and the state’s economy,” said Sweeney (D-Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland).  “At a time of the year when the region’s tourism could use a boost, the hotels and casinos would be filled. Restaurants and bars, like the Irish Pub, would be overflowing with people and the boardwalk would be filled with visitors. It’s a flat out win for our state and we hope the Supreme Court will recognize that.”

“There is no question that this time of year could transform Atlantic City if the courts would allow sports betting in New Jersey. We are talking about thousands of people coming into the region for weeks. The benefit to Atlantic City in terms of jobs and revenue is about more than just legal briefs and court arguments: it’s about the livelihood of an entire town,” said Whelan (D-Atlantic).

March Madness is a college basketball tournament held each spring featuring 68 teams. The tournament is a weeks long event played across the country and known for the large amount of sports betting that it generates.

Las Vegas news outlets report that in 2013, March saw the highest total visitors to Las Vegas at 3.53 million. According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, occupancy rates at hotels were as high as 98 percent during March Madness.  In 2012 it was reported that Las Vegas casinos generate an estimated $100 million in revenue from sports betting during the NCAA tournament.

“Las Vegas is jammed this time of year, while Atlantic City struggles to draw people in during the cold days of winter and spring,” said Senator Ray Lesniak (D-Union), the state’s leading advocate for legalized sports betting.  “We are urging the Supreme Court to not only take up the case, but to right this wrong. Why should Nevada get all the benefits of something that everyone in the country is doing one way or another? The Court could strike a huge blow here for Atlantic City and New Jersey.”

In 2011, voters approved sports wagering in New Jersey.  A year later the governor signed legislation legalizing sports betting in New Jersey, drawing immediate legal action from the major pro sports and the NCAA.  The case has gone through the U.S. District Court and the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, both of whom ruled against the state. The case is currently awaiting action by the United States Supreme Court, which has not announced whether it will take it up or not.

“I have no doubt that sports betting in Atlantic City would bring tens of millions in new revenue to our state’s gaming industry,” said Assemblyman Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “At a time when we are looking for new ways to revitalize Atlantic City, sports betting has the potential to be a game changer. The residents of New Jersey overwhelmingly approved of bringing sports betting to our state in 2011, and I hope that the United States Supreme Court will rule in favor of this economic opportunity that will help breathe new life into Atlantic City.”