Monday, September 26, 2011 : Senate prepares for legalization, and a new poll in the Garden State
Online gambling, and sports betting in particular is again front-and-centre in New Jersey politics as the week starts, with new that the Fairleigh Dickenson University PublicMind poll is about to be updated, a hearing by the Senate State Government and Wagering Committee is about to start, and a consultant is predicting that the state could earn up to $10 billion a year from legalised sports betting.
Pete Wooley, a political scientist and director of the Fairleigh Dickenson poll, said the final 300 interviews had been conducted over the weekend, and the latest numbers on the attitude of New Jersey responders to the poll would be out soon. Back in April this year the poll found that there was public support for legalised online sports betting.
53 percent of respondents favoured legalised sports betting, while 30 percent opposed it, a useful indicator on the run up to a state referendum on the issue scheduled for November 2011.
“I can’t make any firm observations about this current measurement, however my expectation is that there will be little movement since our April poll which showed people ready to embrace sports betting in venues where there is already betting,’’ Wooley said. “I think most people see this as a revenue generator for the state with little downside. ‘’
Over in the state Senate, the Government and Wagering Committee met to hear testimony “on the importance of authorising sports wagering for the gaming industry of New Jersey.’’
Senator Raymond Lesniak, a tenacious protagonist for legalised online gambling in the state said that he hoped Governor Chris Christie and federal regulators would pay attention to the testimony given in the hearing. Lesniak's bill earlier this year received very strong Legislative support and was passed by both Senate and Assembly, only to be vetoed by Christie.
Referring to the November referendum, Lesniak said: “I think the referendum is going to pass overwhelmingly for many reasons, the most significant being that people are already betting on sports teams and want to bet on sports teams.
“It’ll be a big boost in tourism for Atlantic City and for jobs at the casinos and racetracks. Atlantic City will be packed on Super Bowl week, for the Final Four, when the Giants play the Eagles, for numerous occasions when marquee sports events are taking place.’’
The Casino Association of New Jersey supports the November 8 referendum, despite Lesniak modeling a format where racetracks participate in sports betting.
Lesniak said casino operators “have come to realise they need new sources of revenue, despite some of it going to the racetrack. If they insist on 100 percent of it, they’ll get 100 percent of nothing.’’
Also active this week was the State Senate Gaming and Tourism Committee, which is charged with ensuring that New Jersey has a sports betting bill drafted and ready in the event of a successful November poll.
Senator Jim Whelan told the Press of Atlantic City that the legislature could act on the bill in a lame-duck session between the election and the end of the legislative term on 9 January, provided that implementation was conditional on the repeal of the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).
“If this referendum should pass, we want to hit the ground running”, Whelan said. "We want to put a bill together so that when New Jersey goes back to court [to overturn the PASPA], not only did we just pass the referendum, but we would have enabling legalization as well."
A consultant hired by an Internet gambling association has predicted that legalised sports betting could become a $10 billion-a-year industry in New Jersey, generating nearly $100 million a year in tax revenues for the state.