Sports betting, historical race wagering legislation filed

Posted: Feb. 2, 2017

Bills that would authorize sports betting and historical race wagering have been introduced in Congress and the New Jersey legislature, respectively.

They are the latest in a long line of measures designed all or in part to assist the horse racing and breeding industry in the state. Earlier bills filed for the 2017 legislative session in New Jersey deal with racetrack video lottery terminals and casino-operated Internet gaming at tracks.

New Jersey’s sports betting hopes were kept alive in January when the United States Supreme Court requested an opinion from the federal Solicitor General on the state’s most recent legal argument in a case that has dragged on for several years. Monmouth Park and the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, which leases the track, have been at the forefront of the sports betting push in the state.

On Feb. 1, U.S. Reps. Frank LoBiondo and Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey reintroduced legislation to legalize sports betting.

LoBiondo and Pallone dropped the bill just days before the Super Bowl, which the American Gaming Association believes will produce about $4.7 billion in bets in the U.S., with 97% wagered illegally.

“Sports-betting is already happening across our state and across the country, but instead of being appropriately overseen and raising needed revenue for our casinos, racetracks, businesses, and the state, these bets are placed through illegal enterprises,” Pallone said in a release. “It is time to bring this activity out of the shadows. I am pleased to join Congressman LoBiondo in reintroducing these common-sense bills that would level the playing field and give New Jersey’s citizens the opportunity to share in the profits from sports betting.”

The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 prohibits states from implementing new forms of sports betting, which is legal in only four states: Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon. The NJ BET Act filed by Pallone, a Democrat, would exempt New Jersey from current federal law, while the Sports Gaming Opportunity Act submitted by LoBiondo, a Republican, would allow any state to legalize sports betting during a four-year window.

In 2011 New Jersey voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure to allow sports wagering, but it has been delayed by a lawsuit filed against the State of New Jersey by the NCAA and four professional sports leagues. New Jersey appealed lower court rulings in that case to the Supreme Court, which most recently kept the case alive by asking for the opinion from the Solicitor General.

The historical race wagering bill introduced by Democratic Sen. Richard Codey and Republican Sen. Christopher Bateman would allow permit-holders licensed to operate racetracks or off-track betting facilities to install the devices, which resemble VLTs but are considered pari-mutuel in some other states because the outcome of the on-screen games relies on previously run horse races and all bets are pooled.

The New Jersey bill refers to the devices as “electronic pari-mutuel wagering terminals.” The takeout rate would be no higher than 20%, and revenue from the takeout rate—it could be lower pending a stakeholder agreement—would be divvied up as follows: 15% for purses, 4% for state-bred awards or sire stakes, 1% for breeder awards, 15% for race technology fees, 3% for simulcast and video-usage fees; and 62% for the state.

A portion of the amount set aside for purses could be used by the New Jersey THA and Standardbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association of New Jersey for “other purposes that benefit the racing and breeding industries in this state, pursuant to an agreement between the respective permit-holder and association.”

The bill also calls for a 1.5% excise tax on historical racing that would go toward state retirement systems, New Jersey Racing Commission operations, equine drug testing, and equine programs at Rutgers University and other colleges.

(Photo courtesy of Monmouth Park)