When the Supreme Court decision broke on Monday morning, New Jersey rejoiced. After a lengthy, costly legal and legislative battle for nearly a decade, finally a court — the highest court in the land — agreed that the 1992 federal law banning full-fledged sports wagering outside Nevada was unconstitutional.
But the first legal New Jersey sports wager will have to wait a little bit longer than expected.
“We just got the decision,” Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), told NJ.com on Wednesday. “We’re moving quickly with legislation. I’m hopeful we should be ready by early June. Everyone should respect the legislative process rather than jumping out.”
Monmouth Park, whose sports betting operations and infrastructure will be managed by U.K.-headquartered bookmaker William Hill, which manages dozens of books in Nevada, was set to take the first wager by the end of the month.
“When they told me [Memorial Day] I was a little concerned because it’s a Monday, and I would like to try to do it before the weekend,’’ said Dennis Drazin, the CEO of Darby Development LLC, which operates Monmouth Park. “But with all the logistics, getting everyone trained, that is the date we are targeting now.”
But the new Senate bill by Sweeney would prevent Monmouth or “any person that operated a sports pool within one year prior to the enactment of this act,” from getting a license from the state, period.
That bill is S2602, and Sweeney has made it clear that he and the legislature intend to move swiftly with it.
“I have not spoken to the Senate president yet,” Drazin said. “But I have said all along and I have said to the Senate president that I would go along with the legislative process. So I would comply.”
Previously this month, several members of the New Jersey Assembly introduced A3911, which would accomplish largely the same as Sweeney’s bill.
You would think they would have had all this ironed out and ready to go in anticipation of the ruling. Not quite.
It was a 2014 New Jersey Senate law by former Senator Ray Lesniak that set the Supreme Court showdown in motion. With that law the state partially repealed all their sports betting prohibitions. It was creative, and it paid off on Monday.
But in the interim, the state couldn’t risk stepping on their own arguments and intentions with that law, which purportedly was simply to erase those prohibitions. For the legislature to act on sports betting in the meantime would have compromised their legal case. Officials have conferred with Nevada about how their regulations work and done their homework, but the legislature, obviously, has not crystallized about the actual, operative bill.
But before long, the remaining details will be sorted out.
“We fought for this for seven years,” Sweeney added. “I’m anxious to get started just like everyone else.”
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