NJ Sports Betting Clears Legislative Hurdles As Committees Advance Bills

After a two-hour New Jersey Assembly committee hearing that ranged from congratulatory to confrontational, the NJ sports betting bill regulating sportsbooks in the state moves one step closer to Thursday’s expected final vote.

TRENTON — The New Jersey Assembly’s Tourism, Gaming, and the Arts committee unanimously passed a new bill to open and regulate sports betting Monday morning in Trenton.

It was the start of a marathon series of committee meetings for the NJ Legislature.

The Assembly’s Appropriations Committee passed an amended version of the same bill shortly thereafter. The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee followed suit, passing a similar version of the bill (S2602) in the afternoon. 

The bills will now head to a full vote on Thursday, as the Garden State hopes to open sportsbooks in Atlantic City and other locations by this weekend.

What changed in the NJ sports betting bill?

The state’s victory in Murphy v. NCAA last month brought the legislation to life.

Assemblyman Ralph R. Caputo (D-Essex), a former casino employee, celebrated the Supreme Court victory with his opening statement. He called NJ sports betting a “boon” for the state and even suggested “this will generate more revenue than anticipated” from previous estimations.

The original bill, A3911, was introduced before the US Supreme Court decision but was pulled days before the hearing. After almost two hours of testimony that saw friendly and feisty exchanges, the new bill, A4111, headed to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for afternoon discussion.

The afternoon session featured a long delay as committee chair Assemblyman Steve Burzichelli (D-Gloucester) and others spent nearly two hours in recess considering amendments.

The meeting’s amendment saw the 1.25 percent tax on winnings at state racetracks diverted from the host counties and municipalities and funneled to the Division of Local Government Services, a part of the NJ Department of Community Affairs.

Once collected, the individual municipalities and counties would have to apply for the funds to use for economic development purposes. The amendment of the bill could cause complications unless the Senate adds a similar amendment to its bill. 

The bill includes an 8.5 percent tax on bets made in person and a 13.5 percent tax on bets made online. The bill will not seek any integrity fees, which hasn’t found many friends in state houses.

No love for integrity fees or sports leagues

Testimony in each committee hearing ranged from celebratory with Monmouth Park CEO Dennis Drazin — long a supporter of sports betting and a direct beneficiary of the opened market — to confrontational with representatives of the NBA, MLB, and PGA Tour.

The Atlantic City veteran who ran the first committee hearing in the morning turned from a glad-handing host with his allies to a no-nonsense pit boss admonishing the state’s former legal rivals.

When the integrity fee discussions happened, the leagues tried to discuss the additional costs of regulating the games, the costs of maintaining legitimate and reliable data and working with enforcement agencies.

Caputo wouldn’t hear it.

After directly asking why the leagues thought they needed the fees, and getting no suitable answers, he called the fee “hypocrisy to the fullest extent” and suggested the leagues approach the FBI if they were concerned with game integrity.

Before the Assembly Appropriations committee recess, originally scheduled for 10 minutes, Burzichelli took only one testimony from Dan Spillane, the NBA’s SVP and Assistant General Counsel, League Governance & Policy.

Spillane attempted to discuss integrity issues, but Burzichelli responded quickly, saying his comments weren’t relevant to the proposed amendment.

DraftKings, FanDuel seek clarity

From the gaming side, DraftKings and FanDuel testified in support of the bill but wanted some expansion on language regarding the location of the proposed betting lounges.

Their suggestion to modify the bill and allow more space for the lounges wasn’t added.

Caputo and the state appear focused on opening the sportsbooks with all expediency and seem sore that Delaware, which is taking its first bets on Tuesday, will beat them to the punch.

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Other discussions at the NJ sports betting bill hearings

Atlantic City City Council President Marty Small Sr. spoke in support of the bill. He noted that “no one will offer the amount of amenities the Atlantic City casinos have.”

NJ legislators expressed a desire to bring more jobs back to the seaside resort now under state control. Other civic groups hoped to see more revenue stay within the city, opening more services for residents and renewing the promise to benefit Atlantic City.

But perhaps the most dramatic speaker was former MLB veteran, Al Leiter. At the first Assembly committee hearing, he voiced adamant concern for the “profound risk” that an expanded sports betting market would invite.

Having books open so close to major and minor league parks makes players “so much more vulnerable” to schemers. He also cited how little those in lower levels make and the unlikelihood they’ll make the majors.

He cited these concerns as part of why Bud Selig, the former MLB commissioner when Leiter served as a player rep, never wanted a team in Las Vegas.

We’re A Week From Action On NJ Sports Betting Bill As Assembly Sets Committee Date

The Assembly Tourism, Gaming, and the Arts Committee will debate a proposed NJ sports betting bill on June 4, according to sources in the New Jersey Legislature.

The Assembly Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee will debate a proposed bill to regulate sports betting on June 4, according to sources in the New Jersey Legislature.

Where we’re at with NJ sports betting

Bill A 3911 has been active for most of the month as the Garden State looks to open sportsbooks at casinos and racetracks, as well as online NJ sports betting.

The Assembly bill was introduced a week before the US Supreme Court ruled in New Jersey’s favor and struck down PAPSA, the 1992 federal legislation that blocked the expansion of single-game wagering beyond Nevada.

The state Senate is also considering a bill introduced by Sen. Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester), the president of that chamber.

Caputo pushing bill

A 3911, proposed by six members of the Assembly, is currently being vetted by the Democratic leadership in Trenton and is expected to come before Asm. Ralph Caputo’s (D-Essex) committee.

Should the bill advance, the first voting session to approve it will be June 7, a date also considered for Sweeney’s proposed legislation.

“For far too long, New Jersey, a mecca of legalized casino gaming, has been left in the shadows with regards to this issue, being held hostage to antiquated and unconstitutional federal law,” Caputo said in a statement. “There are ample benefits to having legal sports gaming in our state, and I am excited to push forward to bring more people and revenue to our racetracks and Atlantic City casinos.”

“Now, with this long-overdue decision being made, it is time to make New Jersey the legal sports gaming hub in the country,” Caputo continued. “I look forward to working with others in the legislature and Gov. Murphy’s administration to make this become a reality.”

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What’s next for the NJ sports betting bill?

These coordinated efforts in the Assembly and Senate serve the common goal of passing legislation before lawmakers recess at the end of June.

Sweeney previously threatened to exclude any operators who attempted to open books before the new legislation passed. Monmouth Park has said previously it would be open for sports wagers today, but that didn’t happen.

Sweeney also has said that casinos with interest in pro sports franchises should not be allowed to take wagers. Such a provision could affect Borgata, Golden Nugget, and the three Caesars-owned properties.

Physical sportsbooks in New Jersey could be open for the World Cup, which starts in June. New Jersey is just one of several states, such as Connecticut and New York, still considering sports betting legislation this year.

The US Senate has also discussed drafting new federal legislation, which has earned support from major sports organizations such as the NFL, NCAA and the NBA.

NCAA Universities Near The Garden State React To NJ Sports Betting Decision

After the NJ sports betting case came to a close, NCAA schools in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and across the US responded in typical fashion before the NCAA changed its tune on legal US sports betting.

Last week, the US Supreme Court voted 6-3 in favor of New Jersey and deemed the federal law banning sports betting in most states unconstitutional.

The state challenged PASPA and most major national sports leagues, including the NCAA. As the dust settles, the Garden State looks to move forward and open sportsbooks in Atlantic City and other locations during the summer.

We reached out to the 22 Division I universities in New Jersey and neighboring Pennsylvania to gauge their reactions to the decision. The two Big Ten rivals, Penn State and Rutgers, commented.

Reactions on NJ sports betting

Penn State released this university statement the day of the Supreme Court’s decision:

“The law adopted by Pennsylvania in anticipation of this decision outlines a temporary regulation process that will take months to complete. As the largest FBS intercollegiate athletics program in Pennsylvania, we will be monitoring this issue and its process closely, and will actively engage when necessary to see that the interests of the University and its student-athletes are represented appropriately.”

Rutgers gave this statement on last week Wednesday from athletic director Patrick Hobbs:

“As an NCAA member institution, Rutgers remains committed to adhering to all association bylaws. These rules prohibit sports gambling of any kind by student-athletes, coaches, administrators, or anyone else involved in college athletics. Monday’s Supreme Court ruling does not alter our approach or position on this matter.”

Philadelphia-based Big 5 members La Salle, St. Joseph’s, and Temple declined to comment. Monmouth University, a school very close to the proposed William Hill sportsbook at racetrack Monmouth Park, also declined to comment.

Responses from other schools outside the Delaware Valley

Other major universities reacted to the May 14 decision. The Rev. John Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, issued a statement about the ruling which allows states to legalize sports gambling:

“As various parties consider implications of (Monday’s) Supreme Court decision, we urge all to recognize that in intercollegiate sports the athletes are first of all students, and everything should be done to preserve the integrity of the competition and promote the well-being of the student-athletes who compete.”

Joe Castiglione, athletic director at the University of Oklahoma, released this statement:

“We have been tracking this issue and have been anticipating a decision. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled, we’re processing the details and trying to gain a clearer understanding of all of the considerations involved. As a department, we have long been dedicated to educating our student-athletes about impermissible activities, including gambling, as well as monitoring what we’re capable of at the institutional level.

“Going forward, I think it’s important for universities and colleges to seek the assistance of our respective states in developing a regulatory approach in order to properly manage our overall responsibility in this new age, as well as uphold the integrity of our competitions.”

The NJ sports betting case could lead to shifts in NCAA policy. Prior to last week’s decision, Las Vegas wasn’t eligible to host postseason contests because of the proximity to the sportsbooks. 

UNLV athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois hopes this policy will change, as she mentioned in a statement: “Working collaboratively with local and regional leaders, we are confident that Las Vegas can present competitively to host future competitions, as there is a proven track record of success in hosting multiple, large-scale sporting events here in Southern Nevada.”

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NCAA changes its position on sports betting

Three days following the decision, the NCAA released a statement with a changed stance and suspended its policy banning championship events in states that legalize sports betting.

“Our highest priorities in any conversation about sports wagering are maintaining the integrity of competition and student-athlete well-being,” said Mark Emmert, NCAA president. “Sports wagering can adversely impact student-athletes and undermine the games they play. We are committed to ensuring that laws and regulations promote a safe and fair environment for the nearly half a million students who play college athletics.”  

“While we recognize the critical role of state governments, strong federal standards are necessary to safeguard the integrity of college sports and the athletes who play these games at all levels,” Emmert added.

No schools we previously contacted updated their positions after the NCAA’s stance changed.