The state Senate pulled back from voting Thursday night on a resolution to change the state's constitution to allow wagering on sports events if a federal ban is relaxed.
But Sen. Ray Lesniak, D-Union, and Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, both sponsors of the resolution, said Thursday evening they now hope to hold the vote June 10.
Their proposal would ask voters to consider whether state law should allow customers to place wagers on sports events, either in person at casinos and racetracks or online via portals run by gaming and racing companies. The plan explicitly excludes wagers "on a college sport or athletic event that takes place in New Jersey or on a sport or athletic event in which any New Jersey college team participates regardless of where the event takes place."
If both houses pass such resolutions, the public referendum could be put on voter ballots this November. But sports betting would only become a reality if a current lawsuit succeeds in overturning the federal ban on the practice.
The vote had been scheduled to come just days before the National Football League, which has testified against allowing sports-betting in the state, is set to decide whether to hold its Super Bowl in New Jersey.
Joe Brennan Jr., who represents the Interactive Media Entertainment & Gaming Association, noted that the NFL's decision on whether to host Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014 at New Jersey's new Meadowlands Stadium in Bergen County is due next Tuesday.
"We know that's coming up," Brennan said Thursday evening.
Lawmakers, including Lesniak, declined to comment on whether that was the reason for the delay. Lesniak instead blamed the battle Thursday over a proposed new tax on residents' incomes of more than $1 million, which Democratic lawmakers in both houses approved but which was vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie.
"It got caught up in all this millionaire's tax stuff tonight," Lesniak said of the sports-betting measure.
Brennan also confirmed Thursday that staff from the office of Attorney General Paula Dow had raised questions about the wagering resolution.
"They had asked about whether this violated the Wire act," Brennan said. While the Wire Act outlaws forms of betting that use telephone lines to communicate wagers interstate or from overseas, Brennan said the current proposal specifically said that all wagers would be placed by New Jersey residents and through New Jersey-based companies.
Timothy C. McDonough, a spokesman for the NFL would not comment on whether the NFL had recently approached Gov. Chris Christie about their opposition, directing all questions to the NFL's head offices.
Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for the Governor's Office, declined to lay out Christie's feelings about the Senate resolution and the plan for sports betting in the state.
"We won't be having feelings about that until we see the advisory committee's report," he said, referring to the governor's advisory committee on gaming, sports and entertainment, a seven-member panel led by Jon F. Hanson. The group presents its recommendations to Christie on June 30.
Lesniak, who is also an attorney, has undertaken a lawsuit on behalf of the state, seeking to challenge the federal ban on sports wagering, which has been in place since 1992. That suit claims the federal prohibition violates states' rights.
He previously said he has asked Christie to join that suit. But the governor has asked for enough time to receive the advisory committee's recommendations before deciding whether to enter the legal fight to legalize a proposal his advisers may not endorse.
Lesniak said he had heard nothing further from the governor on that point.
"I'm still in the dark on that," he said Thursday.
Contact Juliet Fletcher: