TRENTON, N.J. — Operators of Monmouth Park and other race tracks have been champing at the bit to start accepting bets on sports other than its own horse racing.
The track is one step closer to doing so as on June 11, Governor Phil Murphy signed Assembly Bill 4111, allowing sports betting at New Jersey casinos and racetracks for certain professional and collegiate sports or athletic events.
“Today, we’re finally making the dream of legalized sports betting a reality for New Jersey,” said Governor Murphy. “I’m thrilled to sign Assembly Bill 4111 because it means that our casinos in Atlantic City and our racetracks throughout our state can attract new business and new fans, boosting their own long-term financial prospects. This is the right move for New Jersey and it will strengthen our economy.”
New Jersey has been preparing for legalized book making since 2011 when the state's voters approved a referendum amending the state's constitution to allow for it. Under the leadership of former Governor Chris Christie, the state approved legislation that repealed the provisions of the federal bill.
However, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and the National Collegiate Athletic Association filed a legal challenge. A federal judge issued a ruling in October 2014 that said the leagues were within their rights to prevent wagering on their contests. New Jersey mounted its own legal battle.
Monmouth Park has been ready to open a sports book area in a no longer used cafeteria area in the rear of the grandstand for several months. But until May 14 the lawsuit prevented the track from opening it. Then the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) struck down a federal ban on race tracks and casinos operating sports book-making operations such as those that are now confined solely to the casinos in Las Vegas.
Assembly Bill 4111 was soon introduced and quickly moved through the legislature. Under the legislation, a licensed casino or racetrack may accept wagers at a sports wagering lounge at its respective premises, and can petition to operate a sports pool at a temporary facility during the construction of a sports wagering lounge. In addition, licensed casinos and racetracks can seek to operate an online sports pool beginning 30 days after the effective date of the bill.
Individuals placing wagers must be at least 21 years of age. The bill also provides that athletes, coaches, referees, and other persons with potential influence or access to non-public information regarding sporting events, are prohibited from placing bets on sporting events overseen by the league in which they participate. Additionally, wagers cannot be placed on high school sporting events or collegiate athletic events taking place in New Jersey or involving New Jersey teams.
The bill authorizes the Division of Gaming Enforcement and the New Jersey Racing Commission to issue emergency regulations for a period of up to 270 days to govern sports betting. These regulations are to allow for already-licensed casinos and racetracks to apply for a transactional waiver that will enable them to commence sports betting.
The estimated State tax revenues that could be generated from sports betting are projected at approximately $13 million in the first full year of operation.
Bill sponsors include Assembly Members Eric Houghtaling, John J. Burzichelli, Joann Downey, Ralph R. Caputo, Raj Mukerji, Paul D. Moriarity as well as Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senators Jeff Van Drew and Vin Gopal.
The New Jersey Racing Commission will meet on June 13 to review regulations related to the establishment of sports betting at New Jersey racetracks. Following the Racing Commission adopting regulations, the Governor will be able to ratify the Racing Commission’s decision and licensed racetracks will then be able to apply for a temporary waiver to commence sports betting, according to a statement from the governor’s office.
“Today is a great day for New Jersey. After a thorough review of the legislation, Governor Murphy has taken decisive and swift action in the best interests of New Jersey’s economy and sports fans across our state. I look forward to the Governor joining us at Monmouth Park Racetrack on Thursday morning to usher in a new era for New Jersey by placing the first bet,” said Dennis Drazin, Chairman and CEO of Darby Development LLC, operators of Monmouth Park Racetrack.
According to race track officials, the Monmouth sports book could handle as much as $50 million per year. Sports betting is seen as a rescue of the cash starved track as portion of the revenues will go toward purses and provide incentives to breed and race horses in the state.
The New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association is also seeking damages for lost revenues it claims was the result of the long legal battle over sports betting.
The association filed a motion seeking damages in the New Jersey District Court in Trenton on May 24.
According to the brief, between Oct. 26, 2014 and May 14, 2018 when the Supreme Court issued its ruling, Monmouth Park could have made $139,749,842 on its sportsbook. This sum does not include other damages Monmouth Park has suffered as the result of having been prevented from accepting sports bets.
The motion is scheduled to be heard on June 18.
Meanwhile, horse racing continued at Monmouth Park over the weekend. On June 10, it was a horse named Sports Betting that won his first lifetime start in the first race of the day, a Maiden Special Weight race for 2-year-olds. He is trained by Jason Servis and owned by Drazin.
Captain Gaughen, also trained by Servis continued his comeback at the age of 8, rallying in deep stretch to overtake Siralfredthegreat by a half length to win the featured $41,000 allowance optional claimer.
Winless since Sept. 13, 2014 before this year, the -trained gelding won for the second time in three starts in 2018 and for the seventh time in 41 lifetime starts.
Sent off as the overwhelming favorite in the field of eight, Captain Gaughen paid $3.80 to win. He covered the 5½ furlongs over a turf course listed as firm in 1:03.09.
“He’s a nice old horse,” said Servis. “He’s a pleasure in the barn. He’s feeling good again and he’s showing what he is capable of when he does feel good.”
Live racing resumes at Monmouth Park on Saturday, June 16, with a first race post of 12:50 p.m.
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