NJ legislators race to enact sports betting law within 3 weeks
The race to take sports betting live is on now in the Statehouse.
Monday’s ruling in New Jersey’s favor by the state Supreme Court didn’t just benefit the Garden State. The court repealed a 25-year-old federal ban on sports betting in most states, and lawmakers say they will move quickly to make sure bets can be made as soon as possible.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said people will be able to legally bet on sports in New Jersey “definitely by June 30,” and perhaps sooner.
“We should be able to get together real quick on this. I think we need to move very quick,” Sweeney said.
“We knew we were going to win this one, so there was no reason to wait until the decision to move forward,” he said. “At this point, it’s us getting the legislation passed, the governor to sign it, and it’s off to the races.”
Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Gloucester, said lawmakers will move quickly.
“Pennsylvania will act quickly. New York will act quickly. Connecticut will act quickly. Delaware will act quickly. Maryland will act quickly. They all have casinos,” Burzichelli said. “We’ll probably have a short advantage.”
Former Sen. Ray Lesniak, who fought the professional sports leagues for 10 years over sports betting, said New Jersey’s advantage over other states is that Atlantic City and Monmouth Park are destinations.
“It’s a hundreds-of-billion-dollar industry, so they’ll benefit from our hard work, but we’ll be first in line, and we’ll have the best with the most,” Lesniak said.
Lesniak called the ruling “a great victory” after losing eight rounds in lower court and said he’ll be first in line at Monmouth Park when sports betting goes live.
“There’s plenty of action to go around,” he said, estimating that illegal and offshore sports betting amounts to $500 billion a year.
In a statement, Gov. Phil Murphy thanked Lesniak and former Gov. Chris Christie for their bipartisan effort to overturn the sports betting ban.
"I look forward to working with the Legislature to enact a law authorizing and regulating sports betting in the very near future," Murphy said.
Sweeney introduced a bill to legalize sports betting Monday. A bill already exists in the Assembly, though will be altered to reflect the ruling. Committees will likely consider the bill next week, with the goal of passing the bill May 24 in the Assembly and June 7 in the Senate.
Gross revenue from sports wagering would be taxed at 8 percent, under Sweeney's legislation. Casinos would also pay the existing investment alternative tax. Racetracks would pay an additional 1.25 percent on amounts actually received from sports wagering, with 0.75 percent going to the host municipality and 0.5 percent to the host county.
Sweeney suggested the tax could yield $100 million to $200 million in annual revenue for the state.
He said it won’t include “integrity fees” requested by the professional sports leagues, who for years fought New Jersey’s efforts to make sports betting legal.
“When they came and saw me, I said, ‘Well, I’ll give you what Las Vegas gives you.’ And they said, ‘What’s that?” And I says, ‘Nothing,’” Sweeney said. “Why would we provide funding? You know, Las Vegas has done this forever and never provided any funding to the leagues.”
Burzichelli said the leagues should look to the casinos and racetracks to seek such fees, likening it to the payment made by casinos to horsemen to air events like the Kentucky Derby.
Burzichelli said he couldn’t yet venture a guess as to how much tax revenue the state might see.
“We’re on the verge of taking an underground economy and taking it into the light of day,” said Burzichelli. “We do know people enjoy betting on sports. The people of New Jersey changed the constitution to allow that to happen. What the real number is, I don’t know. But I think it’s going to be significant. It’s going to be helpful. Consumers are going to be able to wager on games in a safe environment. New Jersey will get a little bit of action on the tax side. That’s going to help.”
“And remember, the constitution is going to allow this to be available online, as well, through the casino portals and the racetrack portals, it’s my understanding,” he said. “So convenience is going to be at people’s fingertips. It’s a very exciting time.”