Assembly, Senate Committees Pass NJ Sports Betting Bills; Votes Coming Thursday?

nj sports betting bill committee hearing

As lawmakers and gaming industry stakeholders came together to move legislation forward to tax and regulate New Jersey sports betting, it felt more like a celebration than a serious consideration of the legislation that is going to move quickly through the statehouse in Trenton.

The hard work on crafting the legislation was done before Monday, and the end result was that three different committees approved NJ sports betting bills:

  • The Assembly Tourism, Gaming, and the Arts committee approved a bill first
  • The Assembly Appropriations Committee amended and also passed that bill next.
  • The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee also unanimously passed the Senate version of the sports betting bill later in the afternoon.

The state is rushing to pass legislation after last month’s US Supreme Court decision struck down the federal single-game wagering ban outside of Nevada. The state had decriminalized running a sportsbook with that court case but has no regulatory or tax structure set up.

Neighboring Delaware is set to launch single-game betting on Tuesday.

So what actually happened for NJ sports betting?

The first Assembly committee met to consider A 4111 on Monday morning. That is a bill that didn’t exist until Monday and still does not appear on the Assembly’s website. It replaced A 3911, and the new legislation appears to be set up to be the same as a bill on the Senate side.

The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee approved that chamber’s own bill — S 2602 — on Monday afternoon.

The next stop for the bills is the respective chambers floor, where votes are expected on Thursday. The legislature hopes to send a bill to the office of Gov. Phil Murphy this week.

Some sportsbooks in the state — including at Monmouth Park — hope to start taking wagers as soon as this weekend.

The bills would appear to tax sports betting at a rate of eight percent for land-based sportsbooks and nearly double that for online sports gambling.

The amendment of the bill could complicate the process, unless the Senate adds an identical amendment to its version. If the chambers pass different versions of the legislation, more work will be done either this week or next before it can head to the governor.

Celebrating sports betting coming to NJ

There were amendments proposed on Monday, but the committee’s members said on more than one occasion that they would not be considered. That meant the new bill would be passed “as is.”

So the committee hearing started out being a bunch of lawmakers and interested parties patting themselves on the back after a years-long battle in the federal court system. That victory lap was in many ways well-deserved, but the committee took two hours to advance a bill it knew it was going to pass without changes. There are probably better uses of time for lawmakers, and everyone else in the room.

Of course, people should be able to make their voices heard on the legislation. For example, interests from Atlantic City were lobbying for more revenue for their jurisdiction.

No integrity fees, still

Representatives of Major League Baseball, the NBA, and PGA Tour appeared in front of the committees to ask for provisions they want in sports betting legislation. They’ve done that with sports betting bills across the country via their lobbying efforts.

Those two leagues, of course, were among those who sued New Jersey to keep it from legalizing wagering. Suffice it to say, their requests on Monday fell largely on deaf ears, given the animosity between the leagues and the state. Leagues have been asking for “integrity fees” in many states, or a cut of all wagers paid by casinos/sportsbook operators directly to the leagues on which wagering occurs.

“You’re not here to ask for an integrity fee, are you? Because you’re in the wrong place,” Assemblymember Ralph Caputo, who chairs the gaming committee, asked executives for the leagues before they testified.

The NBA and MLB are also asking for provisions in the bill to have the state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement work with leagues on integrity matters, and for provisions that allow the leagues to set the terms for official data being used in sports wagering.

The leagues’ proposed changes were not added to the bills.

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Dustin Gouker

About

Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner. He has played poker recreationally for his entire adult life and has written about online poker and the online gambling industry since 2008.