Sports leagues continue push against N.J. wagering; lawmaker hones bill to permit it

 New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney. left, is introducing legislation that could lead to the state taking over Atlantic City's government functions. He says Mayor Don Guardian, right, and other city leaders need to work together to run the local government more efficiently. (AP file photo)

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney. left, is introducing legislation that could lead to the state taking over Atlantic City's government functions. He says Mayor Don Guardian, right, and other city leaders need to work together to run the local government more efficiently. (AP file photo)

As professional sports leagues attempt to block New Jersey from allowing sports betting, a state lawmaker is proposing new legislation he hopes will make it reality.

Sen. Ray Lesniak said his bill would repeal any laws in New Jersey that prohibit sports betting at casinos and racetracks.

“Sports leagues and the Justice Department say we have to repeal our laws, and then we’re free to start taking bets,” he said. “And that’s what it does.”

Saying it “certainly will pass both houses in a heartbeat,” Lesniak, D-Union, said he believes the measure will be enacted within a couple of weeks — and that Gov. Chris Christie will sign it.

His bill addresses a Christie administration concern by prohibiting anyone under 21 from making a sports wager.

Assembly Gaming and Tourism Committee chairman Ralph Caputo said Tuesday he anticipates his committee will advance the bill this week.

“We want to give the racetracks a shot in the arm. We want to help Atlantic City. We want to do something for the gaming business in the state of New Jersey, which has been under tremendous duress from the closings, which occurred down in Atlantic City,” said Caputo, D-Essex. “So this is a good move.”

The NCAA and professional leagues have complained the state’s efforts are a legal end-run around federal law prohibiting sports betting in all but four states.

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