Last November, New Jersey voters said “yes” to allow sports betting in the state. But earlier this week, the NCAA and the four major professional sports leagues (NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB) filed a lawsuit to block New Jersey from allowing sports betting, saying it would violate federal law and would threaten the sanctity of the game.
Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-20), the prime sponsor of the sports betting bill, tells Managing Editor Mike Schneider that the federal ban against sports betting, with the exception of Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana, is unconstitutional.
Lesniak asked rhetorically why New Jersey’s casinos and racetracks shouldn’t enjoy the same benefits that Nevada reaps from its casinos throughout its state.
“If the ban is to protect the integrity of the sport as the sports leagues hypocritically, quite frankly, say it is, then they would have banned it everywhere or they wouldn’t have given New Jersey an opportunity to get into sports betting at the time. So that does not pass the smell test of due process that’s reasonably and rationally related to a legitimate use of the power of congress.”
As for the motives behind the actions by the NCAA and the major sports leagues, Lesniak says they just want a piece of the pie.
“This is a money-driven industry. God bless them. Good for them but they shouldn’t deprive New Jersey from getting those revenues, our Atlantic City and our racetracks from benefiting as well.”
According to Lesniak, he potential revenue from allowing sports betting could mean hundreds of millions of dollars for New Jersey’s ailing casinos and racetracks, with the state tourism industry benefiting as well.
“That would keep them operational, I believe, prevent some of them from closing and save thousands of jobs. We’re talking about tens of millions of dollars of additional revenues for the state as well. And that’s just from the gambling aspect itself. The additional tourism when you go to the Final Four, Super Bowl week, you can’t get a room in Las Vegas and Atlantic City is a ghost town. So it’ll create additional tourism. People will go to restaurants and shows as well. So it’s a big economic boost for the state when we get it.”