State to allow sports betting

Staff Writer

Within the next month, representatives of Monmouth Park in Oceanport expect to see patrons wagering on Jets and Giants football games and other sporting events.

Dennis Drazin, consultant to the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, which operates Monmouth Park, said he hopes to have a betting parlor in place at the racetrack in the next 30 days.

The move comes in response to Gov. Chris Christie’s directive this week calling for sports betting to be allowed at state casinos and racetracks.

“We are pleased that Gov. Christie has chosen to continue the fight to bring sports betting to New Jersey,” Drazin said. “We obviously need to watch the developments from here forward.

“The logistics of starting this properly requires some time — you have to get the phone lines set up, you need a couple more things operationally.”

Drazin said sports wagering would be a boost to the struggling horseracing industry.

“We think the betting at Monmouth Park alone will be $1 billion a year, and when you talk about $1 billion, the [revenue] that Monmouth Park gets back is maybe $75 million,” he said. “Then we will be paying normal taxes to the state, as any business would do.”

Christie’s directive notifies law enforcement agencies and the New Jersey Racing Commission and Division of Gaming Enforcement that the operation of sports pools remains illegal, and that those involved in operating pools are to be arrested or prosecuted. The ban also remains on wagering on any college team or athletic event that takes place in New Jersey or involves a New Jersey college team.

Despite a federal ban, the Christie administration has been attempting to legalize sports betting since 2011, when voters overwhelmingly supported a nonbinding referendum supporting legalized sports betting.

Christie signed a bill in 2012 to legalize sports betting at racetracks and casinos.

A federal district court ruled in favor of the leagues, prohibiting the state from licensing or authorizing sports wagering.

The state petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to lift the federal ban, but the justices declined. However, in 2013 the Third Circuit Court of Appeals — while upholding the district court decision — gave the state a window to allowing sports betting. Drazin said the Third Circuit ruling is the basis for Christie’s decision to allow wagering.

“The district court said that PASPA does not permit the spread of states ponsored sports betting,” Drazin said. “So, the state can’t run it, the state can’t regulate it.

“What the Third Circuit said was the state can decide to remove the laws that prohibit it, so Monmouth Park or the casinos can run it.”

Along with Christie’s Sept. 8 directive, the state Attorney General’s Office filed a motion requesting the district court modify or clarify the injunction to ensure that the state is not currently violating federal law.

Drazin said he expects the professional sports leagues and the NCAA to file a motion to block the state’s legal maneuver.

“We do not believe the original injunction prevents us from doing this, because it is done in a way that is different from what was prohibited by the court,” he said.

“I think it is unlikely the leagues will be able to stop us. I think it is unlikely the leagues are granted an injunction.”

According to Drazin, if Monmouth Park were to quickly move forward with hosting sports betting, it could force the hand of the court.

“I think part of how all this plays out is how quickly Monmouth Park decides to offer betting,” he said. “My decision will not be based on waiting for anything, because I just need to see what makes sense operationally.

“I could choose to wait out the court action or I could choose to begin the process sooner, which might speed up the court action.”

State Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth), a proponent of legalizing sports wagering, said the directive is a boost for Monmouth Park and other venues in the state.

“It is a great day for Monmouth Park. It is a great day for the state of New Jersey,” she said in a Sept. 8 interview. “This gives the track leeway to move forward with sports wagering.”

Beck has cosponsored legislation in the past and was planning to meet with the governor’s special counsel on Sept. 10 to discuss sports wagering.

Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) sponsored a bill that would allow sports betting, but it was ultimately vetoed by Christie. He had plans to seek an override of the veto in the state Senate.

Lesniak released a statement Sept. 8 supporting Christie’s decision.

“This is what we’ve been working to achieve, to allow sports betting in New Jersey that is legally sanctioned and beneficial to the casinos, racetracks and the state’s economy,” he said. “It comes at a key time for the casino industry in Atlantic City.

“Sports betting will help restore lost jobs and position New Jersey as a leader in a business with national and international appeal.”

Drazin has said development plans — which call for an indoor water park, hotel, restaurants and other amenities at Monmouth Park — are tied to the additional revenues projected from sports betting.