06/27/2014 3:04PM

Sports-wagering bill reaches New Jersey governor's desk


OCEANPORT, N.J. – Sports wagering could debut at New Jersey’s racetracks and casinos as soon as September, providing a major boost to the state’s struggling gaming industry. The New Jersey legislature overwhelming passed a sports-wagering bill Thursday by a 38-1 vote in the Senate and a 63-6 vote in the Assembly.

The final requirement is a signature from Gov. Chris Christie.

Monmouth Park would be the first outlet to take sports bets, having already constructed a race and sports bar in conjunction with British bookmaker William Hill.

“It’s now up to Gov. Christie to put the final stamp of approval on this important legislation that would bring much-needed revenue to the state of New Jersey and the horse-racing industry. More importantly, however, it means jobs,” said Dennis Drazin, adviser to the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, which holds the racing permit at Monmouth.

The door was seemingly shut on sports betting in New Jersey by the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992. States had the ability to opt out of the federal legislation. Delaware, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon exercised that option. New Jersey did not.

However, a 2013 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit said it did “not read PASPA to prohibit New Jersey from repealing its ban on sports wagering.” It went on to state “it is left up to each state to decide how much of a law-enforcement priority it wants to make of sports gambling, or what the exact contours of the prohibition will be.”

If Christie signs the legislation, Monmouth could be set to take bets at the start of the NFL season.

This is the latest chapter in a long fight, and it comes only days after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider New Jersey’s bid to overturn PASPA. Having failed on that front, the New Jersey legislature followed the guidelines of the lower court, crafting a bill to repeal the in-state prohibition on sports betting.

That leaves the next move up to the governor.

“The New Jersey horse-racing industry has found itself completely surrounded by competition that has casino-fueled purses and alternative revenue streams that do not exist in the Garden State,” Drazin said. “Sports wagering would assist in leveling the playing field and allow New Jersey to be more competitive with its neighbors.”