By Brenda Flanagan
The Supreme Court knocked them down — refused New Jersey’s bid to legalize sports betting — but enthusiasts here say they’re not out. In fact, they’re doubling down, with special legislation that would let racetracks and casinos run sports betting.
“This is of tremendous importance to the state of New Jersey,” said State Sen. Ray Lesniak.
Lesniak says it’s all about revenues.
“It’s a $500 billion industry nationwide that’s basically run by either Las Vegas or organized crime. We’re gonna have it here in New Jersey,” he said.
Lesniak has introduced legislation to repeal New Jersey’s decades-old ban on sports betting. The state would neither run nor regulate it. Instead, the proposal permits private firms to run sports betting — but only at New Jersey racetracks and casinos.
“At our casinos, it’s a ghost town. Our racetracks are dying. Sports betting would breathe life into them so we have to take every single step to make sure that we get it here in New Jersey,” he said.
“If we have sports betting here at Monmouth Park, we’re gonna recapture our market share,” said Dennis Drazin.
Drazin manages Monmouth Park — one of four New Jersey tracks struggling to make a comeback. The track’s partnered with William Hill Sports and set up a bar that’s ready to roll out sports betting the moment it’s approved.
“Monmouth Park they believe would have a 10 percent market share of the state of New Jersey,” Drazin said.
But if the state doesn’t regulate sports betting — who would? Organizers are talking about a private association — something like the New York Stock Exchange.
“We’re gonna wait and see,” said Meadowlands CEO Jeff Gural.
He says his racetrack won’t join Monmouth Park to offer sports betting — at least, not right away. He’s putting his money on a Meadowlands Casino.
“I think that’s inevitable. I think everybody recognizes there will be casino gambling outside Atlantic City,” Gural said. “The people at Monmouth, we’re gonna let them be the guinea pigs and see how that works out.”
Back at Monmouth, fans approve.
“I like to play card games and roulette so it’d be good for me,” said one man.
“You’re losing revenue by not having it because you’re not on equal footing. So from that perspective it tends to make sense,” said another.
“It would be the best thing for this track really, because things don’t look so good right now,” added a third.
Lesniak’s bill is on a bipartisan fast-track, scheduled for a vote tomorrow. No word yet on whether Gov. Chris Christie will sign it.