Senator Ray Lesniak's push for the legalization of sports betting in the state of Jersey received a major boost this week when Governor Jon Corzine announced his support.
The Internet freedom advocacy group iMEGA flagged the move as part of its watching brief on industry developments likely to impact its constitutional litigation against the US Department of Justice.
Governor Corzine confirmed that he would seek to intervene in support of a federal lawsuit filed by state Sen. Lesniak in an effort to overturn a federal ban on sports betting in New Jersey and 45 other states.
“The federal government’s prohibition on sports betting for some but not all states is fundamentally unfair,” Governor Corzine said. “There should be uniformity in the application of federal law. If one state is allowed to legalize betting on sports events, all states should be allowed the same opportunity.”
Since 1992, federal law has outlawed wagering on sports except in four states, Nevada, Montana, Oregon and Delaware. Last month, Delaware took advantage of its ‘grandfather' exemption in the federal law to legalize sports betting and table games at its three horse racing facilities.
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Legalized sports betting in Delaware is a cause for concern within the gaming industry in New Jersey because it puts Atlantic City at a competitive disadvantage. Some estimates say as much as $10 billion could be bet on sports annually in New Jersey if such wagers were legal and could generate $100 million in tax revenue for the state.
Governor Corzine will seek to join the lawsuit Lesniak filed in March this year on behalf of himself as a state senator, the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association and two horse racing groups. The suit asserts that federal law unconstitutionally regulates commerce and discriminates against states were sports betting is forbidden.
“Sports betting in the U.S. is unregulated, untaxed and illegal,” Lesniak said. “Rather than supporting thousands of jobs, economic activity and tourism, the federal ban supports offshore operators and organized crime.”
“Delaware’s entry into sports wagering and table games is a serious threat to the both the casino and horse racing industries in New Jersey,” Governor Corzine said. “We must do everything in our power to stay competitive. We simply cannot afford to sit back and let neighboring states press an unfair advantage against us anytime, and certainly not in the midst of this global economic crisis.”