New Jersey legislature approves sports betting referendum, exchange wagering

new-jersey-sports-bet-referendumVoters in New Jersey will get a chance to make their opinion known on the issue of intrastate sports betting. On Monday, the state Legislature voted to include a referendum in next November’s ballot on whether to amend New Jersey’s constitution to legalize sports betting within the state.

The ballot question put to Jersey’s voters would appear as follows: “Shall the amendment to Article IV, Section VII, paragraph 2 of the Constitution of the State of New Jersey, agreed to by the Legislature, providing that it shall be lawful for the Legislature to authorize by law wagering at casinos or gambling houses in Atlantic City and at current or former running and harness horse racetracks on the results of professional, certain college, or amateur sport or athletic events, be approved?”

To help voters understand just what it is they were approving/rejecting, the following statement will appear alongside the ballot question: “A ‘yes’ vote on this question would allow the Legislature, when permitted by federal law, to legalize the placing of bets on certain sports events at casinos, racetracks, and former racetrack sites. Currently, federal law only permits this type of betting in Nevada and Delaware. It also occurs through illegal betting operations. If legalized in New Jersey, bets could be placed on professional, college, or amateur sports or athletic events, except that bets could not be placed on any college sports or athletic event that takes place in New Jersey or in which a New Jersey college team is playing.”

As the above statement notes, even if the referendum returns a ‘yes’ vote, the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) would still apply, unless Sen. Ray Lesniak’s court challenge proved successful (which most experts believe unlikely). So the vote’s outcome would be, at best, a symbolic victory.

As noted previously, a late tweak by Lesniak meant that the proposed online gambling S490 bill was not sent to the Assembly floor for a full vote on Monday, but the legislature did vote on and approve a number of other gaming-related bills, including a bill allowing exchange wagering on horse races.