Bills would let NJ avoid US ban on sports betting
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – Two New Jersey congressmen plan to introduce separate bills Monday that would let their state offer legal sports betting.
U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, a Cape May County Republican, says he’ll introduce a bill giving all states until 2016 to legalize sports betting. New Jersey and 45 other states missed a 1992 deadline to approve sports betting, which is now illegal everywhere but Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon.
U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., a Long Branch Democrat, plans to introduce a separate bill Monday to exempt New Jersey from the existing federal ban.
New Jersey has passed and enacted a law legalizing sports betting, but the federal ban still must be overcome before Atlantic City casinos and the state’s four horse tracks can start taking bets on professional and college sporting events.
Voters in a non-binding referendum last November indicated by a 2-to-1 margin they wanted legal sports betting in New Jersey.
“New Jersey has been clear about its intent to host sports betting,” LoBiondo said. “Legalizing sports betting would strengthen Atlantic City in the face of stiff competition, giving it an additional edge to attract visitors and critical tourism dollars.”
His bill, called the Sports Gaming Opportunity Act, would give the 46 states that don’t offer sports betting until Jan. 1, 2016, to pass laws authorizing it within their borders. The deadline extension is the only change LoBiondo would make to the 1992 law.
LoBiondo had considered a bill similar to Pallone’s to give New Jersey an exemption from the ban. And he had also weighed a bill that would have repealed the entire 1992 law, allowing all states to immediately offer sports betting. But he settled on the current bill as the most likely to make it through Congress.
Pallone said the current federal ban on all but four states is unfair because it treats states differently.
“The existing federal law is unconstitutional and arbitrary, giving four states access to this billion-dollar industry while shutting out the rest,” Pallone said. “The citizens of New Jersey have made it clear they want the opportunity to share in the profits from professional sports betting. This legislation will help even the playing field and uphold our state’s wishes on what is clearly a state issue.”
New Jersey has been pushing to legalize sports betting for the past few years, soon after Atlantic City’s 11 casinos experienced a downturn in revenues that has lasted five years. It was brought on mainly by competition from casinos in neighboring states and worsened by the sluggish economy.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC.
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