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Voters Say Yes to Sports Betting in NJ

But now officials will need to convince a judge to overturn a federal law barring gambling on athletics.

Voters appeared to be overwhelmingly approving a statewide referendum Tuesday that will change the state constitution to enable the legalization of gambling on professional and certain college sporting events—but only if a current federal ban is overturned.

The Star-Ledger was reporting that with 84% of the ballots counted, the measure was winning, 61 percent to 31 percent.

The amendment was supported by Oceanport Borough, home of Monmouth Park racetrack, as well as Gov. Chris Christie and State Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), who argues that once the referendum is approved, it will only be a matter of months before the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) is ruled unconstitutional.

Lesniak has led the crusade for sports betting in New Jersey in the wake of the 2008 Monmouth County bust of an underground ring that scrounged up $35 million in illegal profits over the two years of its operation—which he cited as a waste of law enforcement dollars and a loss of revenue.

Four states—Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon—were grandfathered in to PASPA before its passage in 1993, and New Jersey had a one year window of opportunity to be included, which was shut when the state legislature opted not to pursue it.

The state Legislature again scuttled legalization when Lesniak attempted to reintroduce it in 2008. Sens. Lesniak and Stephen Sweeney (D-West Deptford) then filed suit against the federal government along with a group of state casino and racetrack interests, citing PASPA as unconstitutional. The suit was tossed out in March of this year, when a federal judge ruled the plaintiffs had no legal standing, and must first obtain the approval of New Jersey voters to amend the state constitution.

Now that voters have approved that amendment, supporters of sports betting can head back to court.

Opponents of the amendment included the National Football League, which argued that gambling should not be allowed on sporting events.

barbara November 10, 2011 at 02:49 PM
I think it's so hypocritical that we have PSA's about how you can get help for your gambling addiction and then vote on something like this. When the State can make money on something, it's not illegal anymore. Years ago, the corner numbers guy would get arrested but now you can go to the local grocery and play the lottery numbers. No wonder things are screwed up.
grandma from point boro November 10, 2011 at 03:49 PM
Hi George. The last line was just written "tongue in cheek". Ultimately either bet will more often than not result in crooked individuals making a profit. The bookies are unabashed crooks working outside of the law. They don't promise that their profits will help children, education or the elderly. The other type of thief is insidious. The perpetrators portray themselves as pious and honest, with only the most valient intent. Our elected officials are in positions of responsibility and to whom the public puts their trust. I sometimes wonder why people don't seem to be as outraged at ongoing white-collar thievery, as they do with regard to other personal behaviors that they deem "immoral".
grandma from point boro November 10, 2011 at 03:52 PM
You are so on the mark!
Billabong November 10, 2011 at 05:11 PM
Barbara, this type of hypocrisy has been going on for years in the ticket business. Ticket scalping in NJ is illegal...unless of course you have applied for and received, a broker license through the state. Sounds sort of like a "regulated illegality."
JerseyVet November 11, 2011 at 10:06 AM
I feel this bill was way over due, I also feel that only Atlantic City should be the only betting place in the state to boost AC Casino's and bring extra jobs. The bill is too watered down, where too many places can place bets, Are they going to privatize these new jobs? There are too many questions to be answered.

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