Sports betting clears NJ legislature

Casinos and racetracks will wait until Gov. Murphy acts before opening books.

David Madden
June 07, 2018 - 6:34 pm
New Jersey State House, Trenton, New Jersey,
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UPDATE: June 8, 8:09 a.m.

It appears that any attempt to crank up sports betting in New Jersey prior to gaining approval from Gov. Phil Murphy may have been nipped in the bud. A written warning has been issued to racetrack operators in the state.

A letter from the state Racing Commission to the owners of the state's three racetracks makes it clear: They need a vendor's license first. 

Any entity that proceeds without one will be disciplined. And perhaps most importantly, state regulators who will issue the license will not take kindly to anyone who opens before Murphy signs off on the bill. 

Legislators amended their original bill to allow a loophole for an early start to sports betting, but casinos have gotten the message. A statement from Borgata, said to be ready to open a sports book, suggests that they are "eager to review regulations as they are issued by the Division of Gaming Enforcement," a nice way of saying they'll wait. 

Sources suggest Murphy won't act until at least next week.

RELATED: Full-blown sports betting starts in Delaware, other states close behind

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TRENTON, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — New Jersey legislators have approved sports betting in the state, but with amendments to their original plan. Casinos and racetracks will be allowed to open sports books before Gov. Phil Murphy takes formal action.

The amendments, in effect, allow the sports books to open without formal immediate licensing, because the state constitution allows it on a limited basis.

"From a state that once did not allow bingo, we're now going to have legalized sports betting," Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Paulsboro) said, "because the people of New Jersey changed the constitution and wanted to have that advantage of being able to enjoy this recreation in a safe environment that has regulation and consumer protections."

Actually, those regulations will be in place after the governor takes action. While they might not need a license immediately, it's thought venues will wait at least a few days for the Division of Gaming Enforcement, which will be responsible for licenses going forward, to sort things out.

"We end up with a work product that gets us out of the gate that's sound, that other states are going to emulate as they always do with New Jersey," Burzichelli added. "There are checks and balances. There are reasonable controls associated with it."

There's no word when venues like Monmouth Park and the Borgata, said to be ready with sports books, might act. But chances are it won't be before the weekend at the earliest.

There had been suggestions that Murphy might hold the sports betting bill as a bargaining chip during ongoing budget negotiations. The amended bill, in effect, gets around that. No one on either side would confirm that the budget played a part in how things worked out.

Murphy's press secretary, Daniel Bryan, issued a statement saying “Governor Murphy looks forward to closely reviewing the sports betting legislation that was recently passed by the Legislature. The governor has long been supportive of New Jersey's right to allow sports betting, and he wants to ensure that the proposed regulatory scheme is fair and reasonable."