NJ voters: We want to bet on sports if U.S. says yes

(AP) - Wanna bet? New Jersey does, butWashington has the final say. The state's voters said Tuesday they want the legal right to beton football, baseball and other sports, provided a federal ban islifted. With nearly 90 percent of precincts reporting, the solestatewide question on the ballot was favored by 65 percent ofvoters. The non-binding question asked whether New Jersey shouldpass a law that would be the first step toward permitting sportsbetting at Atlantic City casinos, the state's four horse tracks anda former racetrack site in Cherry Hill. A federal ban on sports betting in all but four states wouldhave to be repealed before anyone in New Jersey could legally beton professional, college or amateur sports. Bets would not beallowed on any college sports or athletic events that take place inNew Jersey, or on games in which a New Jersey college team isplaying. "New Jersey voters have sent Congress a message that its lawwhich has allowed sports betting in Las Vegas, but not in AtlanticCity, is unfair," said state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, an ElizabethDemocrat who has been the Legislature's biggest proponent of sportsbetting. "I'm confident the federal courts will see that injusticeas well as the law's other constitutional infirmities, and overturnit." Lesniak said he will introduce legislation on Thursday layingthe groundwork for sports betting in New Jersey. He said the billwould be fast-tracked through the Legislature and sent to thegovernor to sign before Jan. 10, when the legislative session ends. He had sued to overturn the federal Professional and AmateurSports Protection Act, which bars betting in most states, but ajudge dismissed the challenge in March. New Jersey missed a 1991 federal deadline to legalize sportsbetting, and it was left out of a 1992 law that allowed it inNevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana. Nevada is the only statetaking legal bets on individual games. The benefits to the casinos and tracks would come not so much byflooding them with new revenue from sports bets, but by drawingmore customers, who would presumably gamble and spend money onother things as well. "It's another amenity," said Dennis Gomes, co-owner of ResortsCasino Hotel, who started one of Nevada's first sports books in LasVegas decades ago. "You're giving your casino customers anotherreason to come here. There's a lot more money in that, from thoseextra people coming down and playing at the casino than there isfrom the money people actually bet on sports." Gov. Chris Christie endorsed the idea. He says people all overthe country are betting on sports illegally and that it's time tobring the gambling out of the shadows and let the state benefitfrom the money it generates.

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