Senators Joe Kyrillos (R-Monmouth) and Ray Lesniak have teamed up to sponsor legislation that will counter the professional sports leagues latest attempts to block sports betting in New Jersey.
The bill, which will be introduced during the Senate’s next session, would explicitly abolish language in state law that prohibits sports betting, a move that would reinforce the state attorney general’s effort to lift the injunction preventing the state from moving forward on plans to allow casinos and racetracks to accept wagers on sporting events. The measure would also prohibit the transport of sports-betting equipment across state lines and set an age requirement of 21 years old.
Last month acting Attorney General John Hoffman issued a directive that instructed law enforcement not to prosecute sports betting at racetracks and casinos. The Christie Administration asked U. S. District Judge Michael Shipp to rule that New Jersey is not violating federal law by decriminalizing sports betting and allowing private entities to operate and regulate the betting.
The four major sports leagues and the NCAA opposed the Christie Administration’s motion, claiming that “The … authorization of sports gambling in New Jersey would irreparably harm amateur and professional sports by fostering suspicion that individual plays and final scores of games may have been influenced by factors other than honest athletic competition.”
Removing the state law prohibiting sports betting from the books will give New Jersey’s legal position more authority and will help withstand any more challenges, Lesniak said.
“The Atlantic City casino closings and job losses underscore the importance of getting this done as soon as possible,” said Senator Lesniak. “Sports betting will be a lifeline to the casinos, putting people to work and generating economic activity in a growth industry.”
“The horseracing industry is more than a business for New Jersey, it is a key part of our way of life,” said Senator Kyrillos. “The racetracks provide jobs and economic activity, but they also support horse farms and open space. Sports wagering is a natural fit with the racetracks.”
The bill is modeled after the Lesniak-sponsored measure vetoed by the governor before Senator Lesniak developed the legal strategy of removing the state ban. Senator Lesniak identified the opinion by the Federal Court’s Third Circuit was an “open invitation” for New Jersey because it stated that it would not violate the federal ban on sports betting since that ban only applies to “state authorized” wagers.