The so-called “nuclear option” for New Jersey sports betting — a full repeal of the state’s prohibition on sports wagering law — has been introduced in the legislature.
The news was broken by the New Jersey Law Journal.
The bill introduced would allow sports betting to take place anywhere in the state. The state has twice before enacted new laws that amounted to “partial” repeals of its sports betting law; to date, those efforts have been struck down in court as violating the federal law, PASPA.
New Jersey is appealing its current sports betting case to the Supreme Court.
The new NJ sports betting bill, at a glance
The bill is A 4303 was introduced last week by Assemblymen Ralph Caputo and John Burzichelli.
It is a fairly straightforward piece of legislation. It attempts to abide by the prescription of the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which has intimated to New Jersey that its prior laws ran afoul of PASPA, but that a full repeal would not do so.
Prior laws limited wagering to casinos and racetracks.
It amends the state code, as such:
The provisions of chapter 37 of Title 2C of the New Jersey Statutes, chapter 40 of Title 2A of the New Jersey Statutes, chapter 5 of Title 5 of the Revised Statutes, and P.L.1977, c.110 (C.5:12-1 et seq.), as amended and supplemented, and any laws, rules [and] , or regulations that may require or authorize any State agency to license, authorize, permit or otherwise take action to allow any person to engage in the placement or acceptance of any wager on any professional, collegiate, or amateur sport contest or athletic event, or that prohibit participation in or operation of a pool that accepts such wagers, are repealed [to the extent they apply or may be construed to apply at a casino or gambling house operating in this State in Atlantic City or a running or harness horse racetrack in this State, to the placement and acceptance of wagers on professional, collegiate, or amateur sport contests or athletic events by persons 21 years of age or older situated at such location or to the operation of a wagering pool that accepts such wagers from persons 21 years of age or older situated at such location, provided that the operator of the casino, gambling house, or running or harness horse racetrack consents to the wagering or operation.
And then in a direct hat tip to the language of PASPA (emphasis added):
The provisions of this act, P.L.2014, c.62 (C.5:12A-7 et al.), as amended, are not intended and shall not be construed as causing the State to sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license, or authorize by law or compact the placement or acceptance of any wager on any professional, collegiate, or amateur sport contest or athletic event but, rather, are intended and shall be construed to remove and repeal all State laws and regulations prohibiting and regulating the placement and acceptance[, at a casino or gambling house operating in this State in Atlantic City or a running or harness horse racetrack in this State,] of wagers on professional, collegiate, or amateur sport contests or athletic events [by persons 21 years of age or older situated at such locations].
The bill would tacitly allow anyone to take sports bets or open up a sports book in New Jersey.
What happens next on the NJ sports betting bill
The bill must first be considered by the Assembly Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee, chaired by Caputo.
Its prospects for passage, however, are unclear. Passing a full repeal of sports betting is risky both logisitically in what it allows in the state and politically for current lawmakers. If the law were to be passed, it would likely be followed up immediately with a law that in some way seeks to limit where sports betting can occur, without once again running afoul of PASPA.
Here’s Caputo, per the NJ Law Journal:
“Right now this bill would wipe out everything,” he said, speaking of limitations. “That would allow anyone to open in [a betting operation] in a storefront,” which supporters do not want, Caputo said. “How do we regulate these other people?”
Caputo also told the NJLJ that it was unlikely the bill would move forward terribly quickly.
The NJ sports betting bill’s chances
The state desperately wants to authorize sports betting to help prop up the ailing casino business in Atlantic City.
The problem is, the new law would not limit the activity to AC or the state’s racetracks. And while taking wagers in AC would certainly help the bottom lines of the casinos, sports bettors wouldn’t have to go to AC to get a wager down under a full repeal.
The “nuclear option” getting to the finish line seems like a long shot, given the many variables in play. The best bet for legal sports betting in the US remains via Congress; federal legislation looking to amend PASPA or take it off the books is in the works.
The New Jersey legislation could be meant to spur action from the major professional sports leagues (NFL, NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball), who to date have been the plaintiffs in the ongoing NJ sports betting case. The proliferation of unlicensed and unregulated sports betting in the US is likely viewed by those entities as worse than the current rampant black market, or the possibility of a regulated market.
So the bill is introduced, but its chances of becoming law are still quite murky at best, until more lawmakers weigh in, or until some votes actually take place on the legislation.