New Jersey to continue fight for sports betting

New Jersey is not giving up on its fight to offer legal sports betting.

A new bill, introduced last week in the New Jersey Assembly, aims to remove and repeal "all prohibitions, permits, licenses and authorizations concerning wagers on professional, collegiate, or amateur sport contests or athletic events."

Assembly Bill 4303 marks the beginning of New Jersey's latest effort to spark its ailing casino and horse racing industry with legal sports betting. Assemblymen Ralph Caputo and Jim Burzichelli co-sponsored the bill, which was placed in the committee on tourism, gaming and the arts. Caputo chairs the committee.

"This is not a final bill," Caputo said. "It's a discussion piece at this point, but we're trying to figure out how we can get this done. And it's not going to be easy."

The New Jersey Law Journal first reported the bill's introduction.

New Jersey has been pursuing legal sports betting for more than five years. In 2011, New Jersey residents approved a referendum to legalize sports betting. Gov. Chris Christie signed the legislation in January 2012, and New Jersey got as far as posting regulations on the gaming enforcement division's website before the NCAA, NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball took legal action.

The case between New Jersey and the sports leagues remains ongoing. New Jersey has asked the U.S. Supreme Court, for the second time, to hear the case.

In the meantime, Caputo is planning to meet with experts on the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), the federal prohibition on state-sponsored sports betting, to discuss potential ways to comply. During a more-than-four-year courtroom battle with the sports leagues, judges and lawyers have argued that New Jersey could comply with PASPA by repealing its prohibitions and restrictions on sports betting. The initial language in Caputo's bill mimics those opinions.

Caputo knows he has a long road ahead and complex legal and political issues to address, but says New Jersey isn't giving up.

"I don't claim to have all the answers," Caputo said. "All I'm saying is that I'm going to be part of the solution, hopefully."

Other states also are pursuing sports betting. Pennsylvania passed a resolution asking Congress to lift the federal prohibition, and New York Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow is planning to introduce sports betting legislation in 2017.

At the federal level, a Congressional committee led by New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone is beginning to review gaming laws, including those dealing with sports betting. In addition, the American Gaming Association is forming a coalition and plans to begin a lobbying effort to legalize sports betting next year.