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New Jersey Legislature Set to Pass Bill and Launch Sports Betting This Week

Despite losing a close race with Delaware to become the first state aside from Nevada to accept legal sports bets, New Jersey is closing in on runner-up status.

On Monday, June 4 the New Jersey Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee passed Senate Bill 2602 by a unanimous 13-0 vote.

The bill – which was introduced on May 14 by New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-03) – seeks to finalize taxation rates and regulatory red tape associated with legalizing sportsbooks throughout New Jersey. A carbon copy of the bill was also passed through a House committee, setting up a full floor vote scheduled for June 7.

Sweeney outlined the legislative objectives behind this last piece of the state’s sports betting puzzle:

“The betting system and the regulatory oversight will protect and promote the integrity of sports gaming.

We have successful experience with the casino industry in maintaining a gaming system that has the trust and respect of everyone, including those who place their wagers.

New Jersey has been a role model and that will continue as we lead the way on this new sector of gaming.”

New Jersey recently won a landmark ruling from the United States Supreme Court, which found on May 14 that the state’s ongoing attempt to regulate its own sports betting industry did not violate federal law. The case originated when the NCAA, NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL teamed up to sue former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who signed the Sports Betting Act of 2014 into law.

In doing so, the Court struck down a 26-year old law known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which previously banned sportsbooks in every state except for Nevada.

With states now free to craft their own sports betting legislation and regulations – and several laws to that effect already on the books in New Jersey – the state was widely expected to take the nation’s first legal wager outside of Nevada. But Sweeney introduced SB-2602 on the same day that the Court decision was made public, seeking to clarify two major sticking points.

His bill requires casinos and racetracks to be the only licensed facilities where sportsbooks can be operated.

Operators must pay an 8 percent tax on gross revenue which will be distributed to the state’s Casino Revenue Fund.

More importantly, however, Sweeney’s bill rejects any notion of paying the NCAA and professional leagues a cut.

The leagues had requested a so-called “integrity fee” of 0.25 percent on all wagering revenue, which they claimed would be used to maintain the integrity of their games.

During the most recent Assembly committee hearing on the issue, Bryan Seeley – who serves as head of investigations, compliance and security for Major League Baseball – told lawmakers that any bill lacking an integrity fee would pose a threat:

“(This) does not give us the tools we need to protect our national pastime.”

Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-28), who heads the Assembly committee on gaming, forcefully shot down Seeley’s implication:

“The tool you’re looking for is money. That’s not going to happen.

“You guys are in it to make money. This is hypocrisy to the fullest extent.

With the committee votes now cleared, the latest sports betting bill is expected to sail through a floor vote on June 7. From there, Governor Phil Murphy is expected to sign it into law immediately, allowing sportsbooks to begin business that same day.

The June 8 target date is especially crucial for local operators hoping to take advantage of the weekend’s Triple Crown horse racing at the Belmont Stakes, along with the Finals of both the NBA and NHL.