ATLANTIC CITY — Atlantic City’s casino industry wants New Jersey voters to approve sports betting, saying it would provide an economic boost for the gambling town and the entire state.
The Casino Association of New Jersey, a trade group representing the city’s 11 gaming halls, issued a statement Tuesday in support of a November ballot referendum to allow sports betting in the state.
“Legalized sports betting will attract more tourists to visit our city and enjoy our world-class entertainment, thriving restaurant industry, brand-name retail shopping and famous Boardwalk,” said Bob Griffin, president of the association. “Sports betting will allow Atlantic City to better compete, grow and reinvest in the region.”
Casinos say the referendum, if passed, would be “an important step” in efforts to overturn a federal ban on sports betting. Only Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana are currently allowed to offer sports betting because they had it before the federal ban was enacted in 1992.
New Jersey’s ballot question, however, is only a nonbinding referendum. It asks voters whether they would want the Legislature to amend the state constitution to allow sports betting at the Atlantic City casinos and New Jersey horse-racing tracks. The federal ban would have to be overturned by the courts or repealed by Congress before sports betting would actually begin in New Jersey.
The major sports leagues have lobbied against New Jersey sports betting, claiming that it could lead to cheating scandals. Supporters believe it would help revitalize the casinos, which have been hurt by the sluggish economy and gaming competition in neighboring states.
“If the referendum is passed and if the federal ban is subsequently overturned, legal sports betting would provide an economic boost for Atlantic City and the entire state of New Jersey,” said Griffin, who also serves as chief executive officer of the Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc. casinos.
A federal lawsuit filed by two New Jersey senators who support sports betting was thrown out by the courts in March. The court ruled the senators had no legal standing to bring the suit, in part because New Jersey residents have not yet voted on the issue.
One of the senators, Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, promised to refile the suit in November if voters approve the referendum. The suit argued the federal ban is unconstitutional because it treats all other states differently than the four states where sports betting is legal.
New Jersey’s proposal would allow wagering on most professional, college and amateur sports events. Betting would not be permitted on college sports events taking place in New Jersey or involving New Jersey collegiate teams.
A Fairleigh Dickinson University poll conducted in February found that 53 percent of New Jersey voters support lifting the federal ban on sports betting. Moreover, 62 percent of them favor having sports betting at the Atlantic City casinos and New Jersey racetracks, the poll stated.
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