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New Jersey Senate Committee Approves Sports Betting Bill

Voters in New Jersey last month approved a constitutional amendment that calls for legislators to craft a bill that will legalize sports betting in the state. On Thursday, a Senate committee took the first step towards that bill becoming a reality when they voted 4-1 in favor of the legislation.

The Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism, & Historic Preservation committee voted in favor of a bill that will authorize bets, not only at state racetracks and casinos, but also online. The bill allows tracks and casinos to apply for licenses to operate the sports books.

Governor Chris Christie has been back and forth with his stance on gambling in New Jersey. Last year, Christie held a series of summit meetings in which lawmakers and community leaders came up with proposals to help the ailing gaming industry. Christie was attempting to help not only the Atlantic City casinos in the south, but also the race tracks in the north end of the state.

Earlier this year, the governor vetoed legislation passed that would have permitted online gambling. At the time, Governor Christie was receiving strong political pressure from members of his Republican Party. Senator Raymond Lesniak, the author of the bill and the driving force behind gambling expansion in New Jersey, vowed to re-work the bill to Christie's liking.

Christie has not taken a stance on the sports betting, but he did acknowledge that if voters approved the measure in November, he would help Lesniak craft a bill and fight federal laws banning sports betting. That is where the process currently sits, and Lesniak finds it offensive that the federal government would ban an activity that millions of Americans are participating in, and the media is driving.

"Do Congress and professional sports associations expect us to believe that these odds are published so New Jersey bettors can hop on a plane to place their bets legally?" said Lesniak. "I don't think so."

The senator was referring to the newspapers in New Jersey that print betting odds in their sports sections on a daily basis. Currently, only Las Vegas, Nevada, has legalized sports books in the US.

Sports and online gambling have been proposed as a way to help New jersey financially during these tough economic times. The online gambling is expected to bring hundreds of millions of dollars into the state in tax revenue, and the sports betting would garner even more financial returns for casinos, race tracks, and the New Jersey budget.

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