POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Gov. Murphy updates status of sports betting, budget negotiations

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

“I want sports betting, believe me,” reiterated Gov. Murphy at a press conference on Friday. “I want to place the first bet in New Jersey if I can.”

But nobody’s placing a sports bet in Jersey anytime soon because Murphy can’t say when he’ll sign the bill that regulates and taxes sports wagering. Lawmakers sent the much-amended document to his desk on Thursday and there’s no timetable.

“We want to make sure we do it right. We just got the bill, so we’re going through it. We’re not going to sit on it, but we just got it,” said Murphy.

“It would’ve been well-received, it would’ve been jobs, it would’ve been revenue for the state. But I get it. The governor wants to get this right,” said Dennis Drazin, the operator of the Monmouth Park Racetrack.

Drazin had hoped to start taking bets at Monmouth Park’s $3 million William Hill Sports Bar. Tote boards there already display live odds and tellers are trained and ready. The Legislature had amended the bill to allow venues to operate sports betting parlors before the governor’s signature.

But Drazin said Murphy asked him to hold off, and a letter late yesterday from New Jersey’s Racing Commission warned the tracks, “Any improprieties of adverse conduct related to any unregulated activities would have the potential to jeopardize their ability to be licensed for sports wagering under the new law.”

As to speculation that sports betting could get sidelined, used as leverage in the ongoing state budget drama, Murphy said, “No, I think we’ve called balls and strikes pretty fairly. We pride ourselves on that.”

Baseball metaphors aside, Murphy told reporters he’s still committed to his original budget proposal to raise $1.7 billion in new revenue by hiking the sales tax and enacting a millionaire’s tax. But top Democrats remain opposed to those plans. Murphy confirmed he was scheduled to meet Friday with Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin over their reported counter-proposal to temporarily raise the corporate business tax for two years instead.

“The first concern, the temporary revenue, versus the long-term investment, that concerns is in the category of, I’m not sure we’re showing responsible leadership by doing that. The second concern is a competitive environment here in the state,” said Murphy.

NJTV News got no comment on how today’s discussion went. As for a two-bill combo package that would expand the medical marijuana program and legalize recreational weed, the governor backs the bill’s concept but wants Lawmakers to hash out details.

“We’ve deferred to the Legislature in terms of how they think the best way to get not just the right bills, but that has the best chances of success,” Murphy said.

Meanwhile, Murphy said he wouldn’t bet on a government shutdown and he hopes vetting the sports betting bill won’t take the full 45 days. Drazin figures Monmouth Park could make more than $120,000 in sports betting revenue every day. Maybe more this particular weekend.

“You have a Yankees Mets game, you have an NBA final, you could’ve had some combination of wagers that parlayed into the Triple Crown,” explained Drazin.

For sports betting venues, every extra day of waiting is more money lost, but politics runs on a different kind of timeline.