NJ gets ready to allow sports betting
A Supreme Court decision on whether to allow legal sports betting in New Jersey could come within days. Or maybe next month. But certainly by the end of June.
In anticipation of a favorable ruling, though, the wheels are already turning in Trenton.
Legislation has been proposed in the Assembly to authorize sports betting at casinos and racetracks.
Lobbying records made public this week show representatives for Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association discussed the prospects of legalized sports betting in meetings with Senate President Steve Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, Gov. Phil Murphy’s chief of staff, Peter Cammarano, and some top staffers in the Senate Democrats’ office.
Scientific Games Corp. announced this week that its SG Digital division had begun sportsbook review sessions with the state Division of Gaming Enforcement in preparation for the potential for legalized sports betting in the state.
The specific language of A-3911 is still in development. The bill will be formally introduced in early May – but even at that point will be modified, said after the Supreme Court ruling comes down if the state learns the terms by which sports betting can be made legal.
“When the Supreme Court finally speaks, it’s going to take a complete refreshment of the statute to allow gaming to function in New Jersey,” said Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Gloucester.
After voters amended the state constitution in 2011 to allow sports betting, the state legalized it in a law that was struck down by the federal courts. The state then adopted a 2014 law that gave casinos and tracks the freedom to take sports betting without regulation.
If the Supreme Court voids the federal prohibition on sports betting, the state would then need to implement a new law regulating sports betting. If it simply endorses the deregulation workaround, then it wouldn’t be needed.
And if the court upholds federal law and says sports betting isn’t legal, then all bets are off.
Atlantic City casinos are eager to start up sportsbooks. Operators of Monmouth Park racetrack say they’d be ready to take bets within two weeks, depending on how the Supreme Court rules.
Burzichelli said it’s likely a new law will need to be passed before bets are taken.
“There’s some discussion that we could go tomorrow if the Supreme Court ruled our way. But in the end, I personally feel the statute’s got to be refreshed and properly structured once we understand the range the Supreme Court is going to grant us.”
The legislative process can often be time-consuming, but Burzichelli says lawmakers will “move as quickly as possible” to take full advantage of the opportunity – presuming it’s provided.
“Monmouth Park made a big investment in this area that they will host this in, hopefully, again, if the Supreme Court speaks in our favor,” he said. “So we can move pretty quickly because we can promulgate regulations in a way that I think could expedite making sports betting legal in New Jersey. Because as we all know, it’s going on as we speak and do this interview.”
A favorable ruling that requires legislation could add another layer of complexity to the busy budget-adoption season – but also add a new stream of revenue that’s not in the proposal Murphy delivered to the Legislature.
“So if we get this up and running in the budget year, all that will just be a bonus,” Burzichelli said.