New Jersey Congressmen Introduce Bills to Explore Federal Sports Betting Legalization

With a new presidential administration in place, including a chief executive in Donald Trump who previously owned casino enterprises, the political winds appear to have shifted in favor of legalized sports betting.

And following the introduction of two bills by U.S. Congressmen Frank LoBiondo and Frank Pallone, Jr. – both representatives of the state of New Jersey – on February 1, those efforts have intensified twofold.

A Democrat, Pallone has served the Garden State’s sixth district since 1988, and in nearly two decades he has had plenty of time to study the divide between New Jersey and the federal government over sports betting legalization.

His bill, officially known as H.R.784 – New Jersey Betting and Equal Treatment Act of 2017, seeks to exempt New Jersey from the current federal prohibition on sports betting. That law, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA) of 1992, banned sports wagering services in all but four U.S. states: Nevada, Oregon, Delaware and Montana.

As Pallone stated in a press release, issued in conjunction with LoBiondo,

“Sports-betting is already happening across our state and across the country, but instead of being appropriately overseen and raising needed revenue for our casinos, racetracks, businesses, and the state, these bets are placed through illegal enterprises.

It is time to bring this activity out of the shadows. I am pleased to join Congressman LoBiondo in reintroducing these commonsense bills that would level the playing field and give New Jersey’s citizens the opportunity to share in the profits from sports betting.”

New Jersey is currently embroiled in a legal battle to overturn PAPSA. The basis for that effort is a pair of high-profile lawsuits, which were filed after the state’s 2011 referendum approving a statewide sports betting industry was shot down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

In effect, Pallone’s bill is an effort to bypass the expected Supreme Court decision on the matter altogether, by securing Congressional approval to add New Jersey to the list of four PAPSA-exempted states.

As for LoBiondo, a Democrat serving the state’s second district since 1995, his bill is officially known as H.R.783 – Sports Gaming Opportunity Act of 2017.

This bill seeks to create a four-year window of opportunity, during which time any state in the union may proceed with their own attempts at sports betting legalization.

With states like Michigan, Mississippi, New York, and Pennsylvania currently considering their own sports betting bills, LoBiondo’s efforts are designed to demonstrate that New Jersey is not alone in opposing PAPSA.

LoBiondo outlined his motivations for collaborating with his fellow Congressman, including revitalizing Atlantic City’s moribund gambling industry, in the joint statement:

“Each year competition from neighboring states and the proliferation of off-the-books betting grows, leaving Atlantic City’s gaming operations at a disadvantage. I strongly believe that sports-betting can help give our famed resort town a hand up, providing yet another unique option for patrons in addition to the quality entertainment, dining, shopping and beaches.

I’m pleased Congressman Pallone, our casinos, local elected officials and an overwhelming majority of New Jersey residents agree. Over the years we have made progress on bringing sports-betting to our state and I hope that a bipartisan coalition in Congress can come together in support of legalizing and regulating sports-betting.”

This is not the first time Pallone and LoBiondo have worked together to introduce sports betting expansion within the Congress, as each put forth nearly identical bills in 2015. Many factors have changed since then, however, including several major sports leagues reversing their long-held opposition to legalization.