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NJ Referendum Just Days Away

Published: October 31, 2011 1:01 pm ET

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On November 8, residents of New Jersey will be asked via referendum whether or not they would like to see the legalization of sports wagering in the state. Although a positive vote is just the first of many steps before the motion becomes reality, one law school professor believes it could happen.

Even if the Nov. 8 ballot question is supported by residents of New Jersey, the state would then have to challenge the federal ban on legalized sports, which became law in 1992. Currently, wagering on sports is only allowed within the states of Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon.

Supporters of the idea have indicated that racetracks could play a part in the gaming expansion. The state's raceways could be locations where the wagering could take place, and, in turn, purses for horse races in New Jersey could then be bolstered with funds derived from wagering on sports.

According to a report by the Asbury Park Press, Whittier Law School professor Nelson Rose, who specializes in gambling law, believes that the process will take some time, but that the state of New Jersey will ultimately prevail.

“It won’t be quick, but I think there’s a good chance they can win,” Rose was quoted as saying. “The problem for defenders of the ban is that there are so many exceptions to it, and federal courts don’t like laws that give multiple exceptions."

Rose continued, saying, “What’s the purpose of a prohibition if it doesn’t apply to Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon?” He went on to say, “Plus, it’s never been the role of the federal government to tell the states how to set their gambling policy. It’s historically the other way around.

“New Jersey didn’t take action on sports betting 20 years ago, but you can’t have a federal law that says ‘You’re stuck and you can’t change your mind about gambling.’”

Senator Ray Lesniak, a big proponent of legalized sports wagering in NJ, offered a sadly-accurate, yet tongue-in-cheek perspective in regard to the situation. “With voter support," said Lesniak, "we will have the mandate needed to successfully challenge the unconstitutional federal law that ensures that only Las Vegas, organized-crime bookmakers and offshore internet operators can reap in the big bucks that are generated from sports betting."

(With files from Asbury Park Press)


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