POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Supreme Court to end debate over sports betting in NJ

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

It’s an estimated $150 billion industry in America, and New Jersey has been trying for six years to score at legalizing sports betting, only to have the courts — the latest one last August — block its Hail Marys.

But, this week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the state’s appeal in October.

“This is really a big deal for New Jersey, specifically Atlantic City,” said Rummy Pandit, executive director of the Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University.

Potentially big as New Jersey and other states salivate over the revenues gambling on sporting events already generates legally in Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Delaware. But in other states?

“There’s a significant illegal market that’s going on in the nation today and legalizing this is only going to help,” Pandit said. “When you get this new segment coming in, this is not just going to be gaming revenue. This is also going to be non-gaming revenues that will be driven from rooms and accommodation, occupancies, food and beverage, entertainment, other amenities will also start to increase by the increased volume of people.”

By almost a two to one margin in 2011, New Jersey voters said yes to allowing sports betting. But, in the courts, the NCAA and the four major professional sports leagues have prevailed by arguing such betting would jeopardize the integrity of their games.

Recently, the Trump administration opposed it because a 25-year-old federal law bans it in all but four states. The administration argued Congress has the power to regulate state activities and can block state laws that conflict with federal policy.

Congressman Frank Pallone introduced a bill to lift the ban and said: “I applaud the Supreme Court for taking on this case and potentially resolving a long history of hypocrisy and unfairness in federal law.”

Sen. Joe Kyrillos has done the same in the state Legislature — with an eye toward increasing horse racing revenues at Monmouth Park. In a statement, he says, “Legalizing sports betting will spur economic growth and bolster our long beleaguered equine industry. These decisions should be made at the state level.”

The governor said he was thrilled because it’s not every day that the high court will ask lower courts to send the record of the case for review.

“So, I’m very optimistic. Looking forward to having conversations later today with Ted Olson who represents us in the Supreme Court. I feel pretty good, he’s got a 750 winning percentage in the Supreme Court, so I feel pretty good having Ted Olson represent us. Again, if the Supreme Court goes the other day I don’t know what our options are but we’ll have to make that evaluation at the time. But the fact that the Supreme Court granted cert in this case is a very good sign for sports betting having a future in New Jersey. I’m encouraged by it, we’re not declaring victory, but at least we’re in the game and that’s where we want to be,” Gov. Chris Christie said.

In the game and looking for a major way to revive revenues at racetracks and Atlantic City casinos.