Monday September 19,2011 : The electorate's approval for state attempts to legalise sportsbetting could have far-reaching consequences
New Jersey politicians, and the gambling industry in the state that includes Atlantic City, are showing an increased appetite for legalised sportsbetting, with moves afoot to place the issue on the state ballot as a residents' referendum this November.
The repeal of a federal government ban on sports betting in the state could be a consequence of a positive vote from residents, empowering state lawmakers to push ahead with legalization plans that will be contingent on federal agreement.
Legalised online sports betting could be a logical follow-on; the state Legislature showed earlier this year that it is prepared to vote for such a development when a proposal by Sen. Ray Lesniak received overwhelming approval in both state legislative bodies, but was vetoed by Governor Chris Christie.
The November referendum will see New Jersey residents being invited to vote on the desirability of legalised sports betting as the first step towards such a goal. That would presage state discussions with federal authorities on how to achieve the federal governments blessing and cooperation. A change will be required to the state's Constitution in order to allow sports betting on the results of any professional, college, or amateur sport or athletic event.
Industry sources told local media this week that a legal sports betting market in the state could generate as much as $200 million for Atlantic City's struggling betting companies. The Casino Association of New Jersey is already urging voters to approve the measure.
"This November referendum, if passed, would provide an important step in the continuing process towards overturning the federal sports betting ban," Robert Griffin, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey said recently in a statement. "If the referendum is passed and if the federal ban is subsequently overturned, legal sports betting would provide an economic boost for Atlantic City and the entire state of New Jersey."
He added that sports betting would allow Atlantic City to better compete, grow and invest in the region.
Industry observers have pointed out that the referendum has a good chance of achieving a positive result; in April this year a Fairleigh Dickenson University poll found that 53 percent of respondents liked the idea of legalised sports betting versus 30 percent who did not.
A Fairleigh Dickenson University PublicMind poll in April found 53 percent of respondents favored legalized sports betting, while 30 percent oppose the measure.
In 1992, the US Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, banning sports betting in all states expect those that were "grandfathered" by virtue of having existing sports betting laws, such as Oregon, Montana and Delaware. The repeal or moderation of this legalization in respect of New Jersey could have important benefits for businesses that are currently seeing illegal gambling outfits operating offshore raking in millions of dollars that could instead be more safely wagered in properly licensed, regulated and well established companies in the United States.