Two N.J. Congressmen Propose Competing Bills on Sports Bets

Two New Jersey congressmen proposed different bills to loosen a 20-year-old federal law that bans sports betting in 46 U.S. states.

Representative Frank LoBiondo, a Republican from Vineland, said his legislation would let states seek permission to circumvent a 1992 federal law that allows sports bets only in Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon. Representative Frank Pallone, a Democrat from Long Branch, wants the exemption solely for New Jersey.

“New Jersey would be carved out,” Pallone said at a news conference in Trenton today. “We’re not dealing with any other state.”

Pallone said he concentrated on New Jersey because voters and Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, have supported the expansion of gambling. Pallone declined to “get into the details of how we’re going to get it passed or what the chances are.” Both congressmen plan to introduce the measures today.

Jason Galanes, a spokesman for LoBiondo, said the congressman worked on his bill with members of the casino industry and the House legislative counsel. A broader measure is more likely to get support in Congress than one that only exempts New Jersey, LoBiondo said in a statement. His bill would give states until 2016 to apply.

“If it’s going to be a New Jersey exemption only, what gives those other states the incentive?” Galanes said in a phone interview. “We went with the idea to let all states have an equal opportunity.”

Casino Market

New Jersey, with resorts along Atlantic Ocean beaches, is the second-largest U.S. casino market, behind Nevada. Pressures on the industry, including competition from new casinos in Pennsylvania, prompted Christie’s administration to approve a $261 million tax reimbursement for the newest resort, the Revel casino scheduled to open this year.

In November, New Jersey voters passed a ballot measure supporting sports betting at casinos and tracks, 64 percent to 36 percent. Christie on Jan. 17 signed a bill that would permit wagering on professional and college sports if the federal ban is lifted.

Professional leagues such as the National Basketball Association have traditionally opposed legalizing sports betting.

“I don’t have any idea of what has a better chance of getting through Congress -- I’m just not close enough to it so I don’t know,” Christie told reporters today in Trenton. “The fact is, whatever allows us to be able to institute sports gambling in New Jersey in a way that’s legal I’m in favor of. Whatever approach can get through Congress is fine by me.”

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