SPORTS

NJ casinos, racetracks ‘chomping at the bit’ to open sports betting operations

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

Both the Assembly and the Senate unanimously passed an amended bill to regulate and tax sports betting in New Jersey just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it’s legal. Watching closely was former State Senator Ray Lesniak, who started the ball rolling in the courts and collected hugs and congratulations.

“Our casinos and our racetracks need new fans and new revenues,” Lesniak said. “And people will flock to the racetracks and the casinos to put a bet in on their favorite sports team.”

“With the renaissance of Atlantic City that’s occurring now with the state intervention, with the entering of two new properties, sports betting is going to complement, bringing these additional visitors to our town,” explained Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, who sponsored the bill.

The bill does not include an integrity fee for major league sports. It permits sports betting parlors at casinos and racetracks and online, although internet sports wagers won’t be accepted until 30 days after the bill is signed into law. It’s expected to generate $13 million in state revenue next fiscal year and cuts a slice away from the illegal sports betting market.

“This is an important step because it takes this industry operating in the shadows, moves it into the economy where there can be benefit not only for taxation for programs that are worthy,” said bill sponsor Assemblyman John Burzichelli.

One amendment will let Atlantic City’s Golden Nugget owner Tilman Fertitta keep his Houston Rockets basketball team and still take sports bets at the Nugget as long as they’re not wagered on any NBA games.

Another critical amendment removed the so-called poison pill provision which would let venues open to take sports bets even before Gov. Murphy signs the bill into law. That’s crucial because sources in the governor’s office say he may not sign this bill until next week at the earliest, and Monmouth Park is ready to go.

“I’ve been chomping at the bit, so to speak, to open for weeks now, the poison pill is out now, so we’re going to do everything we can to get open,” said Dennis Drazin, the operator of the Monmouth Park Racetrack. “We’re trying to make this happen. We have a partner, William Hill, that needs get corporate clearance. That’s all I’m waiting on.”

Drazin is anxious to get started at the park’s William Hill sports betting lounge, where the tote board showed live odds and tellers trained to take wagers. It’s a big sports weekend coming up and Monmouth Park is the only sports betting venue in New Jersey that’s ready to go.

“You could ask all of our tellers who’ve been through extensive training the last two weeks to kind of help you on how to make a sports bet in New Jersey,” said David Grolman, senior vice president of operations with William Hill.

“I’m looking to place the first bet at Monmouth Racetrack, 40 to one odds for the Giants to win the Superbowl. I’m in,” said Lesniak.

Delaware is already taking sports bets, $320,000 worth on Tuesday. Could the governor use Jersey’s sports betting bill as leverage in budget negotiations? Nobody’s giving odds on that game.