NJ Voters OK Sports Bets at Tracks, Casinos

But a federal ban must be overturned before facilities can begin taking bets.

In a largely symbolic vote, New Jersey residents Nov. 8 overwhelmingly approved sports betting at casinos and racetracks.

Sports wagering is illegal under federal law except in four states, including neighboring Delaware, where limited parlay wagering is offered on pro football games. New Jersey officials, however, have said they intend to pursue changes at the federal level.

Democratic Sen. Raymond Lesniak said he plans to introduce a sports betting bill Nov. 10 in the New Jersey legislature.

The measure approved by voters asked if the legislature can “authorize by law wagering at casinos or gambling houses in Atlantic City and at current or former (Thoroughbred) and harness racetracks on the results of professional, certain college, or amateur sport or athletic events.” Bets on in-state athletic events or games in which a team from New Jersey is playing could not be taken.

Four racetracks would be eligible: Atlantic City Race Course, Freehold Raceway, Meadowlands, and Monmouth Park. The “former” racetrack included in the ballot language is Garden State Park, now a shopping and residential development.

A partnership of Greenwood Racing and Penn National Gaming Inc. sold the Garden State property after the track closed in the early 2000s but retained a 10-acre parcel along Route 70 for the purposes of building an off-track wagering parlor. The OTW facility never was built, and PNGI last year sued Greenwood in an attempt to get the project going.

According to various projections, sports betting in New Jersey could generate $200 million to $300 million a year in revenue.