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New Jersey Says Aye to Sports Betting

By: Joan Peppin, Sunday November 13th 2011
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It was one of the most historic referendums in the history of gambling. On November 8, 2011, the residents of the American state of New Jersey cast their votes to decide whether or not they would like to engage in sports betting. Though the official results are not out, the unofficial results showed 66% of voters favor sports betting and 34% oppose it. The verdict is clear.

This referendum is just the first step in a long process. The Federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) bans sports wagering in all American states except Montana, Delaware, Oregon and Nevada. While casting his vote, Governor Christie said, "With this referendum, we have an opportunity that gives the state more solid footing to challenge the federal ban on sports wagering outside of a few select places." Legalized sports betting would boost Atlantic City casino and racetrack revenues to about $230 million annually and also give an impetus to tourism.

State Senator Democrat Raymond Lesniak already has the draft legislation ready, which now can be given effect because of the positive result of the referendum. He will introduce it in the Senate by the end of this week. This legislation would allow the New Jersey Casino Control Commission to formulate a sports betting licensing program at establishments in the counties of Monmouth, Meadowlands, Mays Landing and Freehold. Lesniak said, "I expect to get it to Governor Christie for his signature before the end of the year. By the start of next year's NFL season, when the Eagles play the Giants, you'd better reserve your room soon in Atlantic City, because it will be packed, just like Las Vegas is now."

Governor Christie had earlier this year vetoed a bill that would have legalized intrastate online gambling. The bill had been passed with overwhelming support in the state Senate and House. Hence there were concerns that the Governor would veto any sports betting bill as well. However, days before the referendum the Governor had made it clear that he would respect the vote of the people on the issue. In fact the Governor proactively supported sports betting. He said that illicit betting is a reality and it was time to make it legal. The people who benefit from sports betting should be the people of the state of New Jersey and not individuals involved in organized crime. He however added that if the referendum failed then he would treat the subject of sports betting as a closed book.

Unfortunately Governor Christie did not think the same way about online gambling. Senator Lesniak is making a second attempt to get a revised online gambling bill passed through the legislature. Hopefully the sports betting referendum will provide a positive impetus.

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