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Dual New Jersey Sportsbetting Bills Introduced

In a quick response to Monday’s decision by the US Supreme Court that denies New Jersey’s plans to implement voter-approved, statewide sportsbetting, several of the state’s legislators have introduced new bills that would nullify existing bans on full-fledged sportsbetting in all states other than New Jersey.

New Jersey’s first attempt to implement statewide sportsbetting, following a referendum approved by voters in November of 2011, failed after the Supreme Court denied a writ of certiorari.  The denial means that the United States’ highest court won’t hear an appeal in the matter, thus leaving stand a US district court appeal in three combined cases that pitted the state against five professional and collegiate sports organizations that sought to bar the expansion of legalized betting on their sports.

Welcome to New JerseyTwin bills introduced on Monday following the Supreme Court denial would allow New Jersey sportsbetting in the state’s casinos simply by removing the ban on the practice, as emphasized in the federal-level Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.  1992’s PASPA blocked other states from attempting to regulate sportsbetting on a state-by-state level, with the exception of Nevada’s pre-existing sportsbetting industry and limited parlay betting available in three other states — Oregon, Montana and Delaware.

Where the latest New Jersey bills differ from the previously approved legislation is that in order to adhere to PASPA, New Jersey can override the existing legal bans, but cannot actively regulate the practice or generate tax revenue at the state level.  This would technically make the proposed sportsbetting unregulated and not under the oversight of New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) regulators.

The twin bills introduced on Monday are Senate Bill 2250 (S2250) and Assembly Bill 3476 (A3476).  Both carry the primary description “Partially repeals prohibitions against sports wagering at racetracks and casinos in New Jersey,” and the identical provisions in both bills would remove the upheld PASPA ban only at existing casinos and racetracks in New Jersey.

Listed as primary sponsors for S2250 are NJ State Senators Ray Lesniak and Jim Whelan, both of whom are prominent backers of New Jersey’s existing gaming industry.  Listed as the primary sponsors of A3476 are NJ State Representatives Ronald S. Dancer, Vincent Mazzeo, John J. Burzichelli and Celeste M. Riley.

Late on Monday, New Jersey gaming reporter John Brennan published what is purported to be the initial draft version of S2250 on his Meadowlands Matters blog.  The actual text of that follows, but it has not to date been uploaded to New Jersey’s legislative site to date, and thus the language cannot be exactly confirmed as yet.

Nonetheless, S2250 and companion bill A3476 were clearly drafted in the expectation that the US Supreme Court would choose not to hear the earlier case, and that the existing PASPA prohibitions would be left in place.

Here’s the draft proposal:


“AN ACT concerning statutory prohibitions against sports wagering and supplementing Title 5 of the Revised Statutes.

Eliminates statutory prohibitions against sports wagering at racetracks and casinos in New Jersey.

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

1. Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, including, but not limited to, chapter 37 of Title 2C of the New Jersey Statutes, sports wagering conducted at a racetrack or a casino under procedures developed solely by the racetrack or casino shall not be considered unlawful gambling and a person shall not be subject to criminal or civil liability under the laws of this State for participating in, or conducting, sports wagering at a racetrack or a casino as herein provided.

2. This act shall take effect immediately.


This bill provides that sports wagering conducted at a racetrack or casino under procedures developed solely by the racetrack or casino is not considered unlawful gambling under New Jersey law. Under the bill, a person will not be subject to criminal or civil liability under the laws of this State for participating in, or conducting, sports wagering at a racetrack or a casino.

This bill would conform current law to the rationale expressed by the Solicitor General of the United States in his brief to the United States Supreme Court opposing certiorari in the matter of Christie, et al. v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, et al. On page 11 of his brief, the Solicitor General states that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), 28 U.S.C. 3701 et seq., “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.”


Whether or not a bill that removes a ban on sportsbetting while failing to provide regulatory oversight would be politically palatable remains to be seen.  Such a proposal might be of particular concern to NJ Governor Chris Christie, whose national political aspirations remain part of any conflict between New Jersey and federal legislators.  Christie successfully delayed New Jersey’s introduction of state-regulated online poker for more tha two years before finally caving under the threat of an overwhelming veto override.  This bill may not generate the same widespread support as the state’s online-poker measure, and despite pro-sportsbetting statements in the past, Christie has yet to comment on the regulation-free version of the latest bill.


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