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Luchento Calls For Legal Sports Wagering

Published: September 26, 2011 12:10 pm ET

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On Monday, September 26, Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of New Jersey President Tom Luchento addressed a NJ Senate Committee where he trumpeted the idea of legalized sports wagering in the state.

During the course of his address --- the text of which appears below --- Luchento stated that the implementation of legalized gaming in New Jersey would benefit not only the state's horse racing industry, but also the casinos and the state treasury.

"While Senator (Ray) Lesniak pursues relief from federal restrictions, New Jersey needs to set the table for the legalization of sports betting," Luchento said. "The referendum of voters in November is the first step. Once the referendum is approved by voters, we urge the state legislature to act swiftly to set up the infrastructure needed to put sports gaming into place as quickly as possible."

Luchento also said that he believes the physical future of raceway gaming will adopt more of a 'mall-like' concept.

"Gambling covers a lot of different games, and it is our expectation that racetracks in the future will be more like gaming malls with a full menu of wagering options – including sports betting."


SENATE STATE GOVERNMENT, WAGERING, TOURISM AND HISTORIC PRESERVATION COMMITTEE
Testimony delivered Monday, September 26, 2011
by SBOANJ President Tom Luchento

Chairman Whelan and Committee Members:

My name is Tom Luchento. On behalf of the Standardbred Breeders & Owner Association of New Jersey, I want to thank you for the opportunity to represent the concerns of the thousands of men and women who make their living in the horse racing and breeding industry.

We are grateful to Senator Ray Lesniak for his efforts to bring sports gaming to New Jersey and to all the other legislators who have championed the preservation of our industry.

For more than 100 years, horse racing has provided New Jerseyans with both great entertainment and the sporting challenge of picking winners. Racing is part of our state’s history and heritage.

It is also a key cog in the state’s economy and land use. Twenty per cent of the state’s agriculture farmland is devoted to equine purposes. All this is in jeopardy as our industry struggles in a changing and challenging economy.

The other day, I was thinking that horse racing in New Jersey has been treated like a kid thrown into a pool – expected to learn to swim or sink into the abyss.

Maybe there is a time for that tough love approach, but it only works if you have the tools to survive.

Frankly, we need a lifeline.

Years ago, we were told to drop our pursuit of slot machines for our racetracks, knowing that tracks in neighboring states had no such restraints and could endanger our supremacy in the world of racing if they benefited from slots money.

We were told that casinos would make us 'whole' by paying us a stipend to compensate our industry and to supplement our purses. It was essentially a payment in lieu of slots.

Right now, we have neither the supplement nor slots income. Meanwhile the states around us not only have thriving slots operations at their racetracks, they also have added or will be adding table games.

This has resulted in an exodus from New Jersey not only of horses competing for enhanced purses in neighboring states, but also the gamblers being drawn to Pennsylvania, Delaware and New York for new casinos and racinos.

So while our billion dollar industry is being decimated, another billion a year in gambling dollars are leaving our state – and we are left flailing away in the middle of that pool, searching for a lifeline.

One such lifesaver could be sports wagering, benefiting not only horse racing but also the casinos and the state treasury.

In 2010, gamblers in Nevada wagered more than $2.7 billion on sporting events. Nevada, along with Oregon, Montana and Delaware are the only states currently permitted to accept sports bets, based on the 1992 federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.

As a result, a reported 98 per cent of the tens of billions wagered on sports in the United States each year is being bet illegally.

While Senator Lesniak pursues relief from federal restrictions, New Jersey needs to set the table for the legalization of sports betting. The referendum of voters in November is the first step. Once the referendum is approved by voters, we urge the state legislature to act swiftly to set up the infrastructure needed to put sports gaming into place as quickly as possible.

Gambling covers a lot of different games, and it is our expectation that racetracks in the future will be more like gaming malls with a full menu of wagering options – including sports betting.

In the past year, horse racing in New Jersey has undergone significant changes. The state is in the process of signing over operations of the Meadowlands and Monmouth Park to private operators.

Not surprisingly, the transition has been bumpy. Privatization of racing alone could not possibly provide the means to protect the thousands of jobs and tens of thousands of acres of farmland that are racing-related.

We hope that we can depend on this committee to keep us in mind as you address the issue of sports wagering.



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