Pennsylvania and Michigan have joined the list of states angling for legal sports betting while leaving the heavy lifting up to New Jersey.
On Monday, Pennsylvania State Rep. Robert Matzie announced his intention to introduce legislation in the near future that would allow the state’s licensed gaming facilities to add sports betting to their palette of wagering options.
However, Matzie’s legislation won’t actually challenge the legality of the federal government’s PASPA sports betting prohibition. Instead, Matzie intends to simply ask his fellow legislators to agree to the concept in principle, then be “ready to act” if New Jersey’s legal quest to topple PASPA proves successful.
Matzie’s bill follows another ‘me too’ sports betting bill that Michigan Rep. Robert Kosowski introduced last week. Kosowski’s HB 4060 is a repeat effort from the previous legislative session that would amend the state’s gaming laws to permit licensed casino operators to offer sports wagering, assuming voters approve via a referendum.
Of course, none of this matters diddly unless the US Supreme Court takes further action on New Jersey’s Lord of the Rings-worthy quest to overturn PASPA and bring betting to Atlantic City casinos and state racetracks. The state’s chances brightened considerably last week when the Supremes asked the Acting Solicitor General to submit a brief giving the White House’s legal view of the field.
The cost of getting to this point hasn’t been cheap. This week, billing information obtained by the Asbury Park Press showed that the state has spent nearly $7m in taxpayer funds on its sports betting legal eagles, including $5.46m to lead firm Gibson Dunn Crutcher LLC. The tab could rise significantly if the Supremes agree to hear arguments in the case.
The irony here is that if New Jersey is successful, virtually all the other states not named Nevada will move to legalize sports betting within their own borders as well (assuming the feds don’t automatically authorize the practice nationwide). That would seriously lessen the likelihood that New Jersey sports betting would be all that much of a tourism draw, and rescuing AC’s dying casinos and racetracks was sorta the whole point behind the sports betting push. On the plus side, the state’s Pyrrhic victory will likely make a cracking Springsteen tune.