Business & Finance

Jockeying for Position: Senators Gopal and O'Scanlon Share their Support for Sports Betting Legislation

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Senator Declan O'Scanlon (R-13) Credits: njstateleg
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Senator Vin Goal (D-12) Credits: njstateleg
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TRENTON, N.J. – Well that was fast.

Mere hours after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision allowing striking down the federal ban on sports betting, full throated support for the decision and legislative introductions ruled the day.

“I am extremely pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision to allow sports betting in New Jersey by finding the Professional Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 unconstitutional." said 12th District Senator Vin Gopal.  "In Monmouth County, we are fortunate to have two iconic racetracks right in our backyard: the Monmouth Park Racetrack and the Freehold Raceway. It is essential to allow sports betting at our local racetracks to allow their industry to grow and thrive.”

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Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senator Jeff Van Drew and Senator Vin Gopal introduced legislation that would authorize and regulate sports gaming in New Jersey, putting in place the regulatory framework needed to allow casinos and racetracks to start taking bets. Other legislators issued statements of support that shows an alignment of the stars for both parties for swift legislative action. 

“Sports betting has the potential to revitalize the racing industry in New Jersey, which has waned in recent years." said Gopal. With the added draw of sports betting, I am confident we are going to see a significant increase in attendance at both Monmouth Park and Freehold Raceway. These tracks, which have become integral components of Monmouth County’s culture, are vital to our local economy and major job providers. It is in our best interest to ensure these businesses remain competitive in an increasingly competitive market and continue to grow. I look forward to responsibly bringing sports betting to New Jersey and the economic benefits that will inevitably accompany it.” 

The background on this issue is that the highest court reversed a 1992 federal law limiting sports betting to only four states. This denied New Jersey and other states from allowing wagering on sporting events. Specifically, The court’s 6-3 decision struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.  

According to Senator Sweeney, “We want to act quickly to capitalize on the Court’s decision so that we can get sports gaming in place and operating in New Jersey. We have a competitive advantage with a long history of casino gaming including a regulatory infrastructure that has been operating for decades. It will be a natural transition to incorporate sports gaming by the casino and the racetracks.”  

According to the legislation sponsored by Sweeney, Van Drew and Gopal, their bill would allow casinos in Atlantic City and racetracks and some former racetracks in the state to conduct wagering on professional and collegiate sporting events with the Casino Control Commission and the Division of Gaming Enforcement regulating the operations. Those placing wagers would have to be at least 21 years old.  Betting would be prohibited on any athletic events taking place in New Jersey and on any competitions including a New Jersey college, regardless of where it takes place. Betting on high school events would also be banned.

The legislation would provide for an eight percent gross revenue tax on in-person wagering and a 12.5 percent levy on online sports bets. The tax revenue would be dedicated to programs for senior citizens and the disabled. An additional tax of 1.25 percent on gaming revenue actually received by racetracks would be distributed to the host municipalities and counties.

New Jersey has been trying to legalize sports betting at racetracks and casinos since 2011, when 63 percent of the state’s voters approved a ballot referendum that allowed the state Constitution to be changed to permit sports betting. Major professional and college sports leagues repeatedly sued to block the state from allowing sports betting, and the ensuing legal battles have cost New Jersey taxpayers millions of dollars.

Prevented from owning or operating any sports betting facility or business will be members of sports governing bodies, as well as athletes, coaches, referees and team owners.

“The best way to protect the integrity of sports gaming is to make sure there are no conflicts of interest and no competing loyalties on the part of those directly engaged in the athletic events,” said Senator Sweeney. 

Sweeney's legislative peer, Senator Declan O'Scanlon (Republican District 13) echoed bi-partisan support to bring gaming back to New Jersey. While there was no legislative endorsement of the Democrat bill, he emphasized the value of the courts decision to Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport.

“This is a huge victory for justice and fairness as there has been a bipartisan effort for years to address this arbitrary ban on sports betting. Monmouth Park is a vital cornerstone for our community in Oceanport, and further, for the entire region.” said O’Scanlon “Horse racing is crucial to New Jersey’s economy as well as the preservation of our open space. Our horse racing industry is responsible for the preservation of thousands of acres of open space. Anything that helps the industry directly helps preserve that invaluable resource.”

Assembly Members Eric Houghtaling (D-12) and Joann Downey (D-12) released the following statement in response to the Supreme Court’s decision to allow sports betting in New Jersey:

“This decision stands to directly impact Monmouth County -- the home to the Monmouth Park Racetrack and Freehold Raceway -- not to mention the state at large.  In order to expedite this process, we have already introduced a bill that would allow this form of gambling at New Jersey’s casinos and racetracks. We are confident this decision will positively impact our local economy and provide job security to the countless individuals employed by this industry,” said Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling.

“We fully support the Supreme Court’s decision to allow sports betting in New Jersey. Our racetracks have struggled in recent years but we are confident this bill is just what the industry needs to excite and attract customers once again. We look forward to guiding New Jersey through this process to ensure we implement this change quickly but effectively to gain the most benefit for New Jersey and for customers. This will ultimately help taxpayers by bringing in more State revenue, as well,” said Assemblywoman Joann Downey.

Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling and Assemblywoman Joann Downey introduced bill (A3911) on May 7 that would allow casinos in Atlantic City and racetracks in this State to conduct wagering on professional and collegiate sport or athletic events. A flurry of legislative initiatives and jockeying are expected in the next few months.

 

 

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