Friday December 2,2011 : Following overwhelming approval in a state ballot, sports betting is again on the political agenda
New Jersey senator Ray Lesniak has wasted no time in revitalising the legalization of intrastate sports betting in New Jersey following the overwhelmingly positive vote for the concept in the November 8 residents’ ballot
He has re-introduced a sports betting bill to the state Senate, where the Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee voted it forward by 4 to 1 Thursday.
The publication NJ.com observes that the new measure could bring the state into conflict with the federal government over whether any state besides Nevada can offer extensive wagering on pro and college sports for adults 21 and older.
Sen. Lesniak said he hoped to have the state Senate and Assembly vote favourably on the bill and have the measure on Governor Chris Christie’s desk within 30 days.
Earlier this year Governor Christie said he would support whatever the ballot decision by residents might be, and after the positive vote by residents he gave an undertaking that he would “work as hard as I can try to make it a reality”, although he warned that it was likely to be a long process.
Assuming that the governor is good for his word and signs a bill sent to him by the Legislature, there remains a federal prohibition in place against sports betting, except for Nevada and, to a much more limited degree, Delaware, Oregon and Montana.
Litigation against the federal law launched by Lesniak last year was dismissed by the courts on the grounds that no clear economic harm to New Jersey could be shown without some formal support for sports betting being shown at the ballot box or by the Legislature.
“We have essentially set up a constitutional crisis in which the will of the people, expressed at the ballot box, has come into conflict with a flawed and ultimately unconstitutional federal law,” Lesniak said this week. “This federal ban blatantly discriminates between states and creates a monopoly for Las Vegas casinos and illegal gambling rings.”
Lesniak contended that the posting of betting lines in daily newspapers outside the states permitted to engage in sports betting demonstrated the extent of illegal gambling taking place in the state.
“Do Congress and professional sports associations expect us to believe these odds are published so New Jersey bettors can hop on a plane to Vegas to place their bets legally?” he said.
The NBA and the National Football League each previously have had lobbyists testify in Trenton objecting to the expansion of sports betting beyond Nevada, but none testified before Thursday's committee vote.