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Sports Betting Bill Gains Senate Approval

Legislation sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senator Jeff Van Drew and Senator Vin Gopal that would authorize and regulate sports gaming in New Jersey gained the approval of the Senate today.  

The bill, S-2602/A-4111, would put in place the regulatory framework to allow casinos and racetracks to take bets on professional sports competitions and college events that don’t take place in the state or include a New Jersey team. Licensed “sports pool” operators would also be allowed to accept wagers online.

The Senate vote was 37-0. Also approved by the Assembly 73-0, the bill now goes to the Governor.

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The legislation would authorize the Division of Gaming Enforcement and the Racing Commission to expedite the licensing process so that New Jersey can act quickly to capitalize on the state’s leadership position and competitive advantages. The bill grants regulators emergency rule-making authority that allows them to issue temporary licenses as soon as the bill becomes law. The legislation sets a 30-day delay for online bets in order to set regulations.

New Jersey has a 40-year history of experience with casinos and gaming officials have been working in preparation for the favorable Court decision.

“New Jersey has led the way on sports betting and we will now capitalize on our decisive Supreme Court victory by putting in place a vibrant sports gaming industry,” said Senator Sweeney. “We can now seize the opportunity with a new sector of gaming that will help create jobs, generate economic growth and be an important boost to the casino industry and horse racing.”

The Supreme Court’s landmark decision striking down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was the culmination of a seven-year legal fight by New Jersey to allow wagering on sporting events. The state twice enacted sports gaming laws and gained voter approval through a public referendum but had to fight the deep-pocketed opposition of the major sports organizations.

“Sports betting is a major step forward for horseracing in New Jersey, providing a significant financial boost to an industry that is so important to the state,” said Senator Gopal. “The thoroughbred industry, horse farms and horseracing have long been an important part of the state’s economy, quality of life and our identity. We want to see it thrive with the infusion of economic activity that sports gaming will bring.”

Under the bill, casinos would receive their licenses from the DGE while racetracks and former racetracks would receive their initial licenses from the Racing Commission, but subsequent license renewals would be managed by the DGE, which would be the sole agency to regulate the sports pool operators.

Those placing wagers would have to be at last 21 years old.  Betting would be prohibited on any collegiate athletic events taking place in New Jersey and on any sports event that includes a New Jersey college, regardless of where it takes place. Betting on high school events would also be bannedServers used for online sports gaming by racetracks would have to be located at the racetrack or in Atlantic City and for casinos, the servers would have to be located in Atlantic City.

“Legalized sports betting will be both a boon and a great new source of revenue for New Jersey, for Atlantic City and for the racetracks across the state,” said Senator Van Drew. “The business that it can bring to AC during any of these big sports events will be enormous. We fought long and we fought hard for this opportunity that will be especially beneficial to the Atlantic City region. We challenged the sports leagues and we kept up the fight despite the lower court rulings that did not go our way. We kept the faith and we won in the Supreme Court.”

The bill provides for an 8.5 percent gross revenue tax on in-person wagering and a 13 percent levy on online sports bets. An additional tax of 1.25 percent on gaming revenue received by racetracks would be distributed to the host municipalities and counties by the State’s Division of Local Government Services, with the same 1.25 percent surcharge on casinos going to the Casino Redevelopment Authority to promote tourism and economic development in the Atlantic City area. The tax is applied to the operator’s gross revenues – the amounts wagered minus the amounts paid out as prizes.

The legislation prohibits players, coaches, referees, umpires, team employees, officials of the major sports organizations from placing bets on sports events involving their sports league. Anyone with more than a 10 percent ownership of a sports team would be allowed to be a sports pool operator, but would be prohibited from taking or placing bets on games overseen by their sports governing body.

“The betting system and the regulatory oversight will protect and promote the integrity of sports gaming,” said Senator Sweeney. “We have successful experience with the casino industry in maintaining a gaming system that has the trust and respect of everyone, including those who place their wagers. New Jersey has been a role model and that will continue as we lead the way on this new sector of gaming.”

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