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Lawmaker: sports betting coming to NJ no matter what

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide by June 23 if it will hear New Jersey’s case asking for the federal ban on sports betting to be lifted in the Garden State. A top ranking lawmaker who has been spearheading the state’s efforts to legalize sports gaming said regardless of the high court’s decision, New Jersey will be legally taking sports bets by the NFL’s opening weekend.

sports betting
Mario Tama, Getty Images

“I’ve got a bill that’s ready to go that would allow sports betting in our casinos and racetracks,” said Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Union). “Our residents deserve the right to gamble on sports games and we deserve the benefit that comes from the tourism attraction that goes along with it.”

Over 20 years ago New Jersey had the option of reserving right the right to allow sports betting, but the state did not do it. As a result, Nevada, Montana, Delaware and Oregon are the only four where it is legal. Lesniak said that’s unconstitutional, and he’s not concerned about the federal government bearing down on New Jersey if the state goes ahead and legalizes sports betting in defiance of federal law.

“I’m not afraid of the big bad wolf and I think before that would happen there would be negotiations. My plan would be to eliminate any prohibition against sports betting at casinos and racetracks,” Lesniak explained.

While no casinos have committed to allowing sports betting if the federal ban isn’t overturned, Lesniak said Monmouth Park racetrack has and that’s where he expects the first bets to take place. Some experts warn defying the federal ban would lead to the Department of Justice stepping in.

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