New Jersey took a big step forward in its quest to legalize sports betting in the state. The state Senate approved its latest sports betting bill by a vote of 27-1, setting up a vote in the Assembly on Thursday. The Assembly is expected to follow the Senate’s lead to approve casinos and racetracks accepting sports bets that wouldn’t be regulated by the state, leaving it up, once again, to Governor Chris Christie to have the last say on the bill.
Christie famously vetoed a previous bill in August over concerns that it would conflict with the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. This bill is an amended version of the one Christie vetoed that would partially repeal state laws requiring state agencies to regulate sports betting at casinos and race tracks. The revised measure also repeals any form of licensing and permitting requirements, giving casinos and race tracks the green light to offer sports betting should they choose to do so.
Senator Ray Lesniak, who authored the bill, revised the bill to address some of Christie’s other concerns, including setting an age requirement of 21 years old, banning the transport of sports betting equipment across state borders and prohibiting bets on competitions in the state involving New Jersey colleges and universities.
“This is in the best interests of our state and clearly in the best interests of several important industries that we know are having some challenges at this moment in time,” Senator Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth), the bill’s co-sponsor, told reporters after the Senate voting.
Despite the progress made by the Senate’s near-unanimous vote, supporters still have to tread carefully because of the legal challenges that are still in play, specifically from the Department of Justice, four professional sports leagues and the NCAA. U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp had set an October 31 date to hear oral arguments from all sides but this has now been pushed back to Nov. 21.