California kills sports betting bill; NJ racetrack to offer non-cash sports bets

TAGs: California, Chicago Bears, dennis drazin, monmouth park, New Jersey Online Gambling, NFL, Ray Lesniak

california-sports-betting-monmouth-parkWhile most of the gambling world was wondering whether California would get around to passing an online poker bill before the state legislature ends its current session on Aug. 31, the state Assembly has quietly killed California’s sports betting bill. The state Senate had overwhelmingly passed the SB1390 sports betting legislation in May by a vote of 32-2, and a Field Poll in June found 58% of Golden State voters favored legalization and taxation of sports bets, with only 35% opposed. The Assembly’s Governmental Organization Committee approved SB1390 in June, but on Thursday, the Sacramento Bee reported that the Assembly Appropriations Committee opted to shelve the bill, the justification for which remains unclear at the moment.

That just leaves New Jersey, which successfully passed its own sports betting legislation in January, and is currently prepping for a legal fight with the continent’s major sports leagues over the constitutionality of the federal PASPA sports betting prohibitions. The leagues filed suit to block New Jersey from proceeding with its plans to offer sports bets this fall and the state’s cash-poor casinos and tracks have expressed trepidation about going to the expense of setting up a sportsbook only to see it shut down by the feds. But state Senator Ray Lesniak is calling for the state’s gaming operators to show some balls. A lawyer by trade, Lesniak has rubbished the leagues’ legal arguments for a preliminary injunction and declared the PASPA prohibitions to be demonstrably unconstitutional. Lesniak feels the leagues are “absolutely, totally wrong and misguided, and getting bad advice.”

As the saying goes, cometh the hour, cometh the man. The man of the hour appears to be Monmouth Park racetrack operator Dennis Drazin, who has previously stated that he’d be willing to take point on this patrol. Drazin has now told that his group intends to apply for a license to offer sports bets and to start building the necessary infrastructure at Monmouth. Once that’s done, assuming the suit’s still pending, Drazin will offer free-play sports wagering, in which bettors win non-cash prizes, such as comped hotel rooms and meals. “We definitely think we can do the free play without any concern about anyone raising a fuss. And once we’re licensed – I think by the time they actually give us a license – hopefully the courts will have heard the leagues’ request for the injunction.” Drazin also said that while he was content to let the state take the lead on the legal fight, his outfit plans to either file its own complaint or “move to intervene in the litigation very soon.”

As a footnote, one of the favorite sticks Lesniak likes to use to beat the National Football League for its hypocrisy on the gambling issue is its decision this April to permit casino advertising at its stadiums. On Thursday, the Chicago Bears VP of sales and marketing Chris Hibbs said the team was “choosing not to participate” in striking ad deals with any casinos, because it conflicted with the team’s “values.” According to Hibbs, “gambling doesn’t feel like a fit to me, and I would surmise that some of our blue chip brands would feel the same way.” For the record, the Bears’ corporate partners list includes BP, whose negligence resulted in history’s largest accidental maritime oil spill, and Chase, the banking oufit whose JPMorgan Chase offshoot was fined $228m for knowingly pushing shite derivative products on an Alabama municipal government and was forced to refund $2m to some 6,000 US military families it had knowingly overcharged on their home mortgages. Stay classy, Bears.


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