New Jersey legislation to let casinos, racetracks and some restaurants and bars take bets on sporting events will go before lawmakers today, as Atlantic City faces growing competition from neighboring Pennsylvania.
Cash collected by the state from Atlantic City’s 11 casinos fell 17 percent from July to November compared with the same period a year earlier, according to the Treasury Department’s tax division. November’s gaming revenue dropped 23 percent from a year earlier to $17.6 million.
New Jersey is the second-largest casino market in the U.S., behind Nevada. In November, Pennsylvania’s gaming venues reported gross gambling revenue of $245.8 million, surpassing Atlantic City, at $245.1 million, for the first time, state figures show.
If the Senate and Assembly approve the casino measure, and Governor Chris Christie, 49, a first-term Republican, signs it, New Jersey then would have to go to court to overturn a federal law that prohibits such gambling in most states, with exceptions including Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon.
To help revive the resort area along Atlantic Ocean beaches, New Jersey last year approved a $261 million tax reimbursement for the latest attraction, the Revel casino, scheduled to open in the summer.
Christie favors expanded wagering on professional and college sports. New Jersey voters in November passed a ballot measure authorizing the Legislature to permit sports betting at casinos and tracks, 64 percent to 36 percent.
The bill involving restaurants and bars would permit bets on horse racing, and no other sports, in as many as 12 venues in the northern and central part of the state. The program would be evaluated within three years for possible expansion.
Christie has vowed to end taxpayer subsidies that support horse racing at venues including Monmouth Park and the Meadowlands Racetrack, as crowds and revenue have dwindled. Last month, the state agreed to 2012 racing dates to avert a shutdown at Monmouth, known for its $1 million Haskell Invitational.
On Dec. 23, Jeff Gural, chairman of New York real estate investment firm Newmark Knight Frank, won approval from the state Sports and Exposition Authority to lease the Meadowlands for 31 years.