Legalized Sports Betting Key to Atlantic City Success

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Atlantic City

ATLANTIC CITY -- Senator Jeff Van Drew testified before the Senate Economic Growth Committee on legislation he sponsored to permit legalized sports wagering in New Jersey, calling it vital to Atlantic City's economic success.

"Legalized sports betting is key to Atlantic City maintaining its competitive edge and to ensuring future economic success of the resort city," Senator Van Drew, D-Cape May, Atlantic and Cumberland, said following the committee's public hearing at the Atlantic City Convention Center. "By approving a constitutional amendment, New Jersey residents can send a strong, unified message in favor of reversing the federal ban on sports wagering, a move that would place us on a level playing field with other gaming states."

The bill, SCR-49, would ask voters to approve a constitutional amendment to legalize sports wagering at New Jersey's casinos and horse-racing tracks. It would permit wagers to be placed on professional, college, or amateur sports or athletic events, either in-person of from any other location using telephone, Internet or other means. The measure would prohibit wagering on any college games in which a New Jersey college team participates.

The constitutional amendment would be predicated on the reversal of the Federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), a law which prohibits sports wagering in all but four states. Van Drew, along with Senator Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, also a bill sponsor, have said that it would strengthen the legal case brought against the federal government last year seeking to overturn PASPA as unconstitutional.

"It makes no sense for New Jersey, home to one of the nation's top gaming destinations, to be locked out of this sector of the industry while other states turn a profit and use it to fund important programs for their residents," said Senator Van Drew. "Especially in this tough economy, when the state is facing deep budget cuts, New Jersey should be doing all it can to tap into this market."

"Sports betting is already taking place in back rooms and through a host of other illegal channels across New Jersey, and profits are being used to fund criminal activity, such as organized crime, prostitution, and the illegal drug and arms trade," added Senator Van Drew. "It's time to bring this practice out of the shadows and into the light of day so that the profits can be used for good."

The bill was recently approved by the Economic Growth Committee by a vote of 4-0, with one abstention. Today's public hearing was required by law to give the public another chance to testify on the bill. It now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

.....Senator Raymond Lesniak issued the following statement during yesterday's hearing:

"When Manchester United plays Chelsea at Wembley Stadium, London, in the Premier League, the second most successful sports league in the world, fans can place a bet on either team right at the stadium. When the San Francisco 49ers take on the Denver Broncos at Wembley Stadium on Sunday October 31st of this year, the fans will not be able to place a bet at the stadium, because the National Football League, to protect the integrity of its sport, will not allow the betting windows to open. The fans will have to walk across the street to place their bets. The Broncos will no doubt be favored by a touchdown.

"Insane? You bet it is. Just as insane as the federal ban on sports betting which forces the public to bet illegally with bookies or at off shore internet sites, out of the reach of our law enforcement agencies, or legally at the safe haven created by Congress in Nevada and Delaware. 

"Tonight is the NCAA basketball championship game. Try to get a room in Las Vegas this past weekend. Good luck. You better have made your reservation months ago. Here in Atlantic City, you can have your pick of rooms at any casino, except Revel which, thanks to opposition from those who don't care about the thousands of unemployed men and women in the area, may now never open.

"Las Vegas Sports Consultants (LVSC), a division of Cantor Gaming, estimates that New Jersey could see a $10 billion market for sports betting. That would produce $600 mil of revenue for our casinos and our racetracks and $60 mil in direct revenue to the state and much more for our casinos, our racetracks and our state from the added tourism as a result of legal sports betting.

"Some say the discrimatory federal ban on sports betting will never be lifted, but not NBA Commissioner David Stern who has acknowledged it will at some time in the future, and not Senators Jim Whelan and Jeff Van Drew who know that sports betting will create jobs and boost tourism. These two Senators will use every means possible to fight for those jobs and for our economic growth.

"Legislators from Missouri, Iowa and Rhode Island have introduced Resolutions or Legislation supporting sports betting. And my lawsuit to overturn the ban will be heard this fall in the United States District Court. When either of these efforts are successful, if Congress comes to its senses and stops the discrimination against New Jersey and other states, or if the Federal Courts recognize that the discriminatory ban on sports betting violates the United States Constitution, New Jersey has to be ready to get it going immediately.

"Right now, we are not ready. We have to amend our Constitution to allow sports betting at an election in November. If would be a shame if when the inevitable occurs, our surrounding states would be able to siphon off tourists who want to enjoy the entertainment that goes with placing a bet on their favorite team, just as Las Vegas, and Delaware to a lesser extent, are now doing.

"Today's public hearing will allow the State Senate and Assembly to place a question on November's ballot to permit sports betting. We need it. We deserve it. And some day we will have it. SCR 49 will insure we will have it sooner, rather than later."

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