November’s referendum on sportsbetting proved the appetite of New Jersey’s people for legalised sportsbetting in the state

November’s referendum on sportsbetting proved the appetite of New Jersey’s people for legalised sportsbetting in the state. Frank Catania, Attorney and Partner at New Jersey law firm, Catania & Ehrlich PC, provides an overview of the fallout form the Garden State’s referendum on sportsbetting.

IN 1992 AFTER passage of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), New Jersey was given the opportunity to pass legislation that would have allowed it to have sports betting at its casinos in Atlantic City. I was serving as the Deputy Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly at that time. The sportsbetting legislation was introduced, however, the then Speaker of the General Assembly, Chuck Haytaian, was lobbied heavily by New Jersey’s own US Senator Bill Bradley the sponsor of the PASPA, representatives from the National Football League (NFL), other sports leagues and many professional players pressuring the Speaker not to allow the bill to advance. On the opposing side, representatives from the casino industry were doing all they could to have the bill voted out of committee and posted for a vote before the full general Assembly. At that time, the casino industry in Atlantic City was flourishing with new casino openings and no competition from surrounding states (and sportsbetting was not viewed as a necessary economic boost).

Lesniak's bill

Fast forward to 2010 and New Jersey’s casino industry is in a tailspin, facing competition it never previously had and New Jersey’s horseracing industry is increasingly losing money. In an effort to help the race tracks and the casino industry, State Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), himself an attorney, institutes a suit to allow sportsbetting at New Jersey race tracks and in the Atlantic City casinos. The initial suit was dismissed by the Court on grounds that the plaintiff did not have standing to bring the action. Senator Lesniak did not throw his hands up in defeat. He introduced a bill that passed both the New Jersey Senate and General Assembly to have the sportsbetting issue placed as a question on the ballot for the November 2011 General Election.
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