New Jersey

Revised New Jersey Sports Wagering Bill Passes State Senate

The latest attempt by the New Jersey state legislature to enact legalized sports betting as approved by voter referendum has passed the state’s Senate on a 27-1 vote, paving the way for the matter to be returned to the New Jersey State Assembly for final approval.

Though unspecified in reports from the state’s news outlets, a minor tweak in the bill’s Senate version may have necessitated the return trip for an Assembly vote, where the original version of the bill, A3634 (below), was approved on a decisive majority vote earlier this month.

This latest edition of the bill designed to exempt certain locations from existing New Jersey sports wagering bans may be voted on in the Assembly as soon as Thursday, after which it would go to the desk of Governor Chris Christie for veto or approval.

new-jerseyThis latest political dance suggests that some state-level horsetrading has occurred.  A3634 in its official form is identical to the word to the version of the bill (A3476/S2250) that Christie vetoed in August, although Christie soon did an about-face and issued an executive order dictating that sports wagering that took place at certain select venues in the state would no longer be prosecuted under New Jersey law.

This story is one of several to raise the possibility that if Christie signed the bill immediately, that it would enable sportsbetting to take place in New Jersey as soon as this weekend, with the state’s Monmouth Park Racetrack potentially the first venue in the state to take bets.

However, that seems unlikely for several reasons.  First, the state’s ongoing request for a clarification of the existing federal-level PASPA (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) is ongoing.  Presiding judge Michael J. Shipp, who ruled against New Jersey’s interests previously, has yet to issue his latest order regarding the dispute.  Shipp has stated, however, that a decision is not likely to be released before the end of October, and New Jersey itself is still in the process of submitting response briefs to denial motions submitted by the DOJ and the five sports associations involved in the initial case.

Another major point is that New Jersey Gov. Christie has shown little history of acting quickly on controversial issues, often waiting until the very last days to either sign or veto a measure.  That history carries extra importance, since by waiting until the last moment to decide on this bill — if approved by the Assembly, as expected — Christie can delay his official decision until after the fall elections.

Since the bill will be either very close to or completely identical to the bill that he previously vetoed, the possibility exists that the measure was resubmitted entirely to spare Christie the embarrassment of what would have been the first veto override of his administration, though NJ State Senator Ray Lesniak, one of the bill’s primary sponsors, has claimed that the votes to override the veto existed.

In short, don’t expect live NFL wagering to take place in New Jersey this weekend, despite the hoopla.

………………………

The complete text of A3634:

SYNOPSIS
Partially repeals prohibitions against sports wagering at racetracks and casinos in New Jersey.

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
As introduced.

AN ACT partially repealing prohibitions against sports wagering at racetracks and casinos in this State and supplementing Title 5 of the Revised Statutes.

BE IT ENACTED by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

1. All prohibitions, including, but not limited to, chapter 37 of Title 2C of the New Jersey Statutes, against wagering on the results of any professional, college, or amateur sport or athletic event, are partially repealed to the extent they would apply to such wagering at casinos or gambling houses in Atlantic City or at current running and harness horse racetracks in this State.

2. This act shall take effect immediately.

STATEMENT

This bill is in response to the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (the Court) in National Collegiate Athletic Association, et al. v. Governor of the State of New Jersey, et al., C.A. No. 13-1713, 1714, 1715, dated September 17, 2013, wherein the Court in interpreting the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), 28 U.S.C. § 3701 et seq., stated that it does “not read PASPA to prohibit New Jersey from repealing its ban on sports wagering.” Third Circuit Decision at 73. The Court further stated that “it is left up to each state to decide how much of a law enforcement priority it wants to make of sports gambling, or what the exact contours of the prohibition will be.” Decision at 78-79 (emphasis added). Moreover, the United States in its brief submitted to the Supreme Court of the United States in opposition to petitions for writs of certiorari in the above-referenced case wrote that “PASPA does not even obligate New Jersey to leave in place the state-law prohibitions against sports gambling that it had chosen to adopt prior to PASPA’s enactment. To the contrary, New Jersey is free to repeal those prohibitions in whole or in part.” United States Brief to the Supreme Court in Opposition to Petitions for Writs of Certiorari, dated May 14, 2014, at 11 (emphasis added).

Accordingly, under this bill, New Jersey would decide that its “exact contours of the prohibition” against sports wagering should be to repeal New Jersey’s prohibitions against sports wagering “at casinos or gambling houses in Atlantic City or at current running and harness horse racetracks in this State.”

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