VOTERS IN THE US state of New Jersey have overwhelmingly passed a state-wide non-binding ballot referendum that could eventually see the ‘Garden State’ legalise sportsbetting at its casinos and racetracks.

With over 80 percent of precincts reporting in, the referendum, which was partially the brainchild of State Senator Raymond Lesniak and the only measure to appear on the ballot, has gained approval by a margin of 65 percent to 35 percent.

However, the passage of the referendum does not mean that punters in New Jersey will be able to immediately wager on sports as current federal legislation still prohibits this activity in all but four states. Lesniak recently revealed that getting voter approval could help if the issue returns to the courts after he failed last year to have the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports
Promotion Act (PASPA) overturned.

If the current federal prohibition on sportsbetting were to change, the jurisdiction now has voter approval to potentially permit its horseracing tracks and casinos to offer wagering on most professional, college and amateur sporting events with the exception of collegiate events taking place in New Jersey or involving teams from the eastern state.

"The voters beat the over-under,” Lesniak told the Star-Ledger. “It was a bigger win than we expected. There’s a strong momentum to fight the federal ban in New Jersey. This is on the fast track. I want to get it to the Governor’s desk by the end of the year so by this time next year Monmouth Park, the casinos and Meadowlands will be packed with people enjoying a new form of entertainment.”
Joe Brennan from the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association (iMEGA) was also pleased with the outcome. “We’re very happy that now, after this long and difficult process, the question of legal sportsbetting is at last moving through the proper venues. New Jersey’s citizens have voted to amend their state constitution to permit regulated sports wagering. This referendum was a reflection of the most powerful form of change in our government - a purely democratic, majority decision by popular vote.

“Of course, we could avoid all of this - the court battles, the expenditure, the silliness, really - if the Department of Justice would simply acknowledge what it did when PASPA was first enacted almost 20 years ago: that the law is unconstitutional.”
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