Righting a wrong: A history in New Jersey sports betting

[On Tuesday voters in New Jersey will weigh in on whether to put the state on record as supporting legal efforts to allow sports betting at the state’s casinos and race tracks. When they cast their ballots, few will be aware that bare-knuckles political infighting nearly two decades ago is the reason for the referendum.]
 
Bill Bradley’s last NBA elbow jumper hit the bottom of the net some 3½ decades ago, and was soon followed by his election to the pro hoops Hall of Fame. Not bad for a shooting guard/small forward who appeared in just one All-Star Game and averaged only 12-plus PPG, but it helps to have played in New York on the Knicks’ last title team.
 
Always anxious to be defined by more than his basketball skills, Bradley went on to a decent career as a United States senator. Representing heavily Democratic New Jersey, he checked off all the right boxes –– advocate for the underprivileged, proponent of children’s health initiatives, campaign finance reform. Bradley barely survived a re-election challenge from Republican Christine Todd Whitman in 1990, but a few years later the two would take turns in screwing over the citizens of New Jersey and perhaps millions of others nationwide on the issue of sports betting.
 
Never a fan of gambling, Bradley in 1992 decided that it would be a great idea if he could fix it so all 250 million people in the country were deprived of Former Knick and NJ senator Bill Bradley isn't a fan of sports betting.their right to wager legally. The downtrodden took a temporary back seat while Bradley –– with the backing of the NFL, NBA and NCAA –– went about the business of sponsoring the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.
 
[Bradley would later say that his opinion on gambling was cemented when, during an NBA game, he was appalled when a meaningless end-of-game shot that enabled one team to cover the spread was cheered. Bradley doesn’t mention the game, and it’s possible the story was a fabrication to bolster his arguments against gambling.]
 
The former Princeton star wanted sports betting banned in every state, but since politics is the art of the possible he settled for a compromise: States which already allowed it [Nevada, Oregon, Montana and Delaware] could continue in their present form.

Through the work of New Jersey’s other senator at the time, Robert Torricelli, the door for sports betting in New Jersey was held open, and New Jersey could be added to the list if both the legislature and the state’s voters approved it.

Fair enough.

But at this point Whitman re-enters the picture, and the issue takes a disgusting turn. Still stung from her loss to Bradley, in 1993 Whitman was running for governor against Democratic incumbent Jim Florio. The state was still recovering from the effects of the 1989 recession, Florio had been forced to raise taxes to balance the budget and voters were in a surly mood. Polls had the race a dead heat as legislators debated putting sports betting on the November 1993 ballot.

Republicans, so close to the governor’s office that they could taste it, figured it was time for some old country hardball.

“Turnout is everything when a race is tight,” New Jersey state Sen. Ray Lesniak, a longtime advocate of allowing sports betting in the Garden State, told Covers.com, “and Republicans [who controlled the General] Assembly refused to even take a vote on sports betting because they thought it would increase turnout in urban areas and hurt Whitman’s chances.”
 
Joe Brennan Jr., president of the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gambling Association and a strong advocate of sports betting in New Jersey, affirms Lesniak’s recall of the times, putting it in even starker words: “Republicans were afraid that minorities would turn out in enough numbers to support sports betting, and they wanted to depress that vote for political purposes.”

Internet searches also indicate that Nevada’s casinos sent money east to help kill the effort in the Assembly, but that can’t be confirmed.

Under the terms of PASPA, sometimes known as the Bradley Act, New Jersey had a year to carve out its own exemption. But because of the shenanigans in the legislature, the year expired and PASPA’s wet blanket has been covering the state’s casinos and race tracks ever since. The issue was relegated to the back burner during the 1990s and early 2000s when the Atlantic City’s casinos were riding a solid economy to profitability, but the dawning of the Great Recession of 2008 and the maddeningly slow recovery breathed new life into the issue.

Last year Lesniak’s law firm financed a legal challenge to PASPA (“it cost us $300,000,” says Lesniak), but New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie refused to commit the state’s support, and the courts threw out the case in part because the plaintiffs (mainly Lesniak) lacked standing –– i.e., did not speak for the state. Lesniak and Brennan are now ready for another battle.
 
“We feel that the state cannot ignore the will of the people,” Lesniak told Covers on Tuesday. “The people will have spoken and even the governor won’t be able to misread the vote.”

Lesniak was proven right on Wednesday when Christie announced that:
 
A. He plans to vote for the referendum
B. Assuming passage, he will meet with Lesniak to discuss a legal plan of attack.
 
“Let’s get that economy up from underground,” Christie said in a surprising announcement of his support. “Let’s have the people who benefit from it be the people of the state of New Jersey,” not individuals involved in organized crime.

“With this referendum we have an opportunity,” he said, that gives the state more solid footing to challenge the federal ban on sports wagering outside of a few select places. “If it fails, obviously I won’t have any interest in pursuing it.”
 
Lesniak says that Tuesday night’s vote which is expected put the state on record as supporting sports betting will be cost-efficient for the state’s lawyers. “First of all,” says Lesniak, “all they have to do is cut and paste. My firm has already done all the paperwork. And [the cost to the state] is a drop in the bucket compared to what the state will realize when the racetracks and Atlantic City casinos can take bets.”
 
Opposition will be fierce and unrelenting. The deep-pocketed NFL, NBA and NCAA will produce a litany of gambling horror stories, and you can be sure the name of a rogue NBA referee will come up. Nevada’s Strip casinos will also dig deep to protect their monopoly. But if the polls are to be believed – the latest shows that 58 percent of likely voters favor passage and only 31 percent oppose – on Tuesday night New Jersey will have taken the first step toward righting a wrong that has existed for 18 years.

[Note: Efforts to reach Bradley were unsuccessful. Whitman did not return phone calls or emails. A representative of Florio returned a call, but Florio declined to talk.]

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Posted by Mark_The_Narc
3 years ago

It's been called. 65-35 for it.
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Posted by nc1capper
3 years ago

no matter what happens -------------VEGAS RULES----------------
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Posted by Moo5
3 years ago

Can't wait....NJ and gambling perfect together.
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Posted by TheCrowCaws
3 years ago

What time will they be announcing results?
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Posted by bracks
3 years ago

1 man, 1 vote!!!! I did my art. They are supposed to be getting answer around 9pm
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Posted by BURG2VEGAS
3 years ago

ok after it passes how long til i can take back residence in brigataine
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Posted by LakeCommish
3 years ago

verdict ?
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Posted by DavidGurney
3 years ago

Because of all the illegal aliens in my precinct,I had to vote,Si !
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Posted by bluephinn
3 years ago

Humor me Larry...Is gambling is illegal in O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?..So this is what you call democracy..Well blow me down.I call this an oxy-moron..Moron being anyone that thinks that the Cards are World Champs..It seems to us " suppressed outsiders"that the lan of the free are still insular as ever...This write highlights that fact and goes one better then the soup nazi episode on Seinfeld..
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Posted by mwhit82
3 years ago

Now this doesn't pertain to some whose main concern is welfare of book, city, or state. My 1st point is aimed at what's clearly right, fair, and fuckin American...That is: I should be able to do whatever I want w/ my money. If I want to hand out tips, piss away on expensive lame ass paintings, donate it to corrupt ass politicians, or of course give to fraudulent religions it's really not anyone's fucking business. So clearly gambling should be legal, I don't even have to mention the "underground revenue" going to the not-so-desirable crowd..... Now w/ that said for us gamblers who like/expect the low juice I agree w/ chilitokid, not the part that juice will kill you at the book, since a fundamental rule of economics is competition will drive the price down. But the ability of a state/fed tax that could take 20+% of winnings after the juice. Maybe those of us who enjoy the online experience in International waters should just be content! As long as there's a bank out there willing to transfer funds & the US gov't won't prosecute individual gamblers, maybe we should all accept defeat and allow everyone to be happy! That doesn't include the poor school kids whose teachers got fired cuz sum dick-head politician may have given tax breaks to their very wealthy donors & decided to cut school's expenses.
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Posted by DavidGurney
3 years ago

We'll be leading 1-0 at 6:01 am as I plan on being first in line to vote.
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Posted by glyde69
3 years ago

What's the point? So people can fill out bullshit sheets like in Delaware? Shit lines that never change, and forced to bet only parlays at awful odds? FUCK YOU.
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Posted by jerseykingpin
3 years ago

WTF are you talking about This is not like Delaware where you play a lottery or something . It real sportsbooks
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Posted by bracks
3 years ago

The ? of who gets your action, it will depend on who you wants the action with. Jersey already has a wagering acct system. You give your SS card and DL @ Monmouth, Meadowlands, etc, you get a card and # to call (from a landline in Jersey). Can do it from internet as well. The Casinos would take the same Cantor Gaming app way to gamble as long as you were in the State. Owner of the Racetracks is different than each Casino
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Posted by Mkuhi
3 years ago

to me bigmoney that highlights one of the issues, who gets your business the tracks or AC, and can you wager there without having to be there physically. I would say that your phyiscal presence will probably be necessary.
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Posted by bigmoneyang
3 years ago

if this happens to be legal im a ny resident is it possible to have an account with a sportsbook in a.c instead of going there all time
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Posted by jerseykingpin
3 years ago

No for online or phone bets you would have to live in Jersey . Just like with 4njbets which is for the tracks .
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Posted by Mkuhi
3 years ago

as a resident of New Jersey who lives 5 minutes from Monmouth Park I will be out voting yes for this. Monmouth Park is struggling and perhaps sports betting will bring in new customers to the track to allow it to continue, even though I fear horse racing's popularity is dying in the state of new jersey. My biggest fear is that the AC casinos and the racetracks do not see eye to eye and I do not think the AC casinos are interested in seeing Monmouth Park succeed (i.e. the casinos can write off food and drinks while the track cannot). Why would AC be interested in the well being of the tracks, I would not travel the hour and a half to AC if I could just gamble how I wanted 5 minutes away. Anyway, I like that the AC casinos are struggling, they are always willing to COMP my rooms haha. Allowing sports betting IMO is like allowing the legalization of marijuana. If properly regulated it can really only hurt the user and benefit the state through hopefully millions in tax revenue.
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Posted by DavidGurney
3 years ago

Another problem has popped up:They're worried if there will be power in many towns on Tuesday.
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Posted by Goggles-Pisano
3 years ago

I can't believe Christie thinks this will impact the bookies in a negative way. All this does is allow Sports Betting in a few select locations when everyone wants to be able to wager online. These legit locations will attract people who don't bet now (in addition to us.... at times) and will want to bet online. Access to online books will be in every nook and cranny at the Meadowlands and AC. Bring it on!
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Posted by lillefty
3 years ago

Most casinos in Vegas won't let you use your players club card to be tracked. Which of course is fine by me. You don't want to be tracked. Sports bettors add very little to casinos. That is why they are usually found in a small room in the back of a casino. You might see 20 cent MLB and NHL lines but if they want to draw any business, then you will see -110 lines everywhere else. As far as taxes go, they will have to work something out where it is part of your prebet juice. 7 cents juice is for the house and 3 cents goes to the state or something like that.
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Posted by jerseykingpin
3 years ago

If it passes and fat boy takes the VP job we will see it with in a year after he's in
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Posted by josbran
3 years ago

The sportsbetting measure will pass but it will be at least 3 years till you can place a bet in NJ. The feds will push hard against any measure that goes against the federal ban. I hope I'm wrong but I don't think so.
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Posted by houseman
3 years ago

lets face it,,,,the bets will be put in under or over the table,,,,,,,if they approve it vegas will take a hit,,,,,
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Posted by jerseykingpin
3 years ago

Vegas is all for Jersey getting sports betting
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Top Response

Posted by unclemoneybag
3 years ago

"Ok then keep your current book! It will not effect what you are already doing. And why would you complain about a big win. The point is that the economy will improve in AC, which means more growth, more jobs, better infrastructure. Bookies,drug deale..."