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Sports betting: New Jersey may not be No. 1 in race to launch


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Monday’s favorable ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court paves the way to allow gambling on sporting events at racetracks and casinos in the state. Asbury Park Press

OCEANPORT – There is a chance New Jersey will not be the first state other than Nevada to launch sports betting, with Delaware and Mississippi moving fast to opening sports betting operations — while the Garden State is in a holding pattern.

More: Sports betting odds, news, state laws

Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, asked Monmouth Park officials May 16 to delay its launch of the new venture until at least June 7. Monmouth had been set to open its sports betting operation — the first in the state —  at its William Hill Sports Bar on May 28. 

Sweeney said waiting can’t be avoided.

“The way it is right now, I can open up a store front and start taking bets,’’ Sweeney said in a video interview released by his office May 22. “Having regulations put in place is important. We’re going to move quickly on it. We did win. New Jersey won the fight in the Supreme Court. It was a long fight. It’s time for us to get moving quickly.’’  

Sweeney has said the Senate and Assembly will pass the regulations by June 7. Sports betting can then begin at race tracks and casinos around the state quickly after Gov. Phil Murphy signs the regulations, he said.

“They can be doing it (sports betting) the very next day. Once the governor signs it, it’s live,’’ Sweeney said.

Sweeney praised Monmouth Park officials for agreeing to the delay.

“I really appreciate Monmouth giving us a chance to put the rules in place,’’ he said.  “Dennis Drazin (who is cheif operator at Monmouth Park) has been a partner in this all the way through, and again, we appreciate them working with us.’’

Drazin – along with former state senator Ray Lesniak –  was one of the leaders in New Jersey’s seven-year fight to get the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 that limited sports betting to Nevada, overturned. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned that law May 14.

With the legislature asking for the delay, there has been speculation that Delaware could beat New Jersey in becoming the first state outside of Nevada to launch sports betting. Sweeney is confident no state will begin a sports betting operation before New Jersey.

“No one is going to be sports betting Memorial Day weekend – not that I’ve heard of or know,’’ Sweeney said. “It’s not anybody getting in front of us. In fact, I think we’re going to do some ceremonial betting that weekend just to kick it off.’’

Drazin has said he will invite Gov. Phil Murphy, former Gov. Chris Christie, Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, and Lesniak to a ceremonial sports betting outing at the track on May 28

Still, the door is open to Delaware going online before Monmouth.

“Is it going to bother me? If New Jersey’s not first, shame on us,’’ Drazin said.

Sweeney has said his goal is to have the regulations voted on by both the Assembly and the Senate by June 7 and ready for  Murphy to sign immediately afterward. Drazin is hopeful Monmouth could launch sports betting June 8.

“I respect the legislative process. I respect our legislative leaders,’’ Drazin said. “I want to be part of moving the state forward in this important, historic area and I don’t want to be an obstacle. 

“Could I do something different and take a different position? Sure. But, I’m not going to. In talking to the Senate President (Sweeney), they want to get it right. This is our chance to develop sports betting for the state.

“Whether, it’s first choice or not, I want to cooperate with the legislature and the governor and do whatever they ask me to do.”

Delaware could launch sports betting the first week of June, the Asbury Park Press’ sister paper, The News Journal of Wilmington, Delaware, has reported.

Gov. John Carney’s administration and Attorney General Matt Denn’s office on Thursday announced they have found no legal obstacles that would prevent Delaware from offering single-game betting — clearing the way for a full rollout in the coming weeks, the News Journal reported. 

Delaware state officials have not given an exact start date but sources familiar with the state’s gaming industry say Delaware’s three casinos could begin accepting bets in the first week of June, the News Journal reported.

Mississippi could be ready to launch sports betting in mid-June, according to a tweet by Daniel Wallach, a gaming and sports attorney.  

 

The Mississippi Gaming Commission has issued sports betting regulations for public comment with the public comment period lasting 25 days, Wallach said. 

So, New Jersey, which waged a seven-year fight to get the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) —  the federal law that essentially limited sports betting to just Nevada since 1992 —  overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, could be beaten to the punch in the launch of sports betting.

Drazin and Monmouth Park, along with former state senator Ray Lesniak, were among the leaders in that seven-year fight.   

“They (the legislature) want to make sure they get it right,” Drazin said. “This is not punitive to Monmouth Park. They recognize the role that  Monmouth Park has had – the role that I’ve had in moving this forward.” 

Monmouth will have a ceremonial sports betting event for charity on May 28. Drazin will invite Lesniak, Murphy, former Gov. Chris Christie, Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, to the ceremony.   

“New Jersey should have been the first state. I’m ready to go,” Drazin said. ” (Sweeney) has said ‘Our bill (the senate’s) and the assembly’s version will be ready to go by June 7th. We will send it to the Governor and we anticipate he’s going to sign it’. 

“They’re telling me there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to get a license by June 8th. Whether that’s reality or not is a whole another issue.” 

Drazin said he has been assured that there will be temporary regulations in place on an emergency basis on the first day of sports betting until the formal process is completed. 

Start of the third race which was won by Chris DeCarlo on The Accuser. Opening Day of Horseracing at Monmouth Park brought out the crowds and celebrators since it's also Kentucky Derby Day. White Bluff ridden by Andel Arroyo won the second race of opening day. Opening Day of Horseracing at Monmouth Park brought out the crowds and celebrators since it's also Kentucky Derby Day. The Accuser ridden by Chris DeCarlo won the third race of the day. Opening Day of Horseracing at Monmouth Park brought out the crowds and celebrators since it's also Kentucky Derby Day. Michelle Wriede, and Kylie Wriede, 9, of Heightstown come dressed for Derby Day. Opening Day of Horseracing at Monmouth Park brought out the crowds and celebrators since it's also Kentucky Derby Day. Geri Urbansky of Old Bridge gets in the Derby Spirit. Opening Day of Horseracing at Monmouth Park brought out the crowds and celebrators since it's also Kentucky Derby Day. Opening Day of Horseracing at Monmouth Park brought out the crowds and celebrators since it's also Kentucky Derby Day. Opening Day of Horseracing at Monmouth Park brought out the crowds and celebrators since it's also Kentucky Derby Day. Frank Anello of Wall wears a horse hat on Opening Day of Horseracing at Monmouth Park brought out the crowds and celebrators since it's also Kentucky Derby Day. Grayson McAlinden of Middletown watches fascinated as the horses pass by through the tunnel on their way to the track. Opening Day of Horseracing at Monmouth Park brought out the crowds and celebrators since it's also Kentucky Derby Day. Albin Jimenez rides Ark in the Dark to the winners circle after the first race of the day. Opening Day of Horseracing at Monmouth Park brought out the crowds and celebrators since it's also Kentucky Derby Day. Opening Day of Horseracing at Monmouth Park brought out the crowds and celebrators since it's also Kentucky Derby Day. Racing fans shoot the winners circle action over the railing. Opening Day of Horseracing at Monmouth Park brought out the crowds and celebrators since it's also Kentucky Derby Day. The Accuser ridden by Chris DeCarlo won the third race of the day. Opening Day of Horseracing at Monmouth Park brought out the crowds and celebrators since it's also Kentucky Derby Day. Opening Day of Horseracing at Monmouth Park brought out the crowds and celebrators since it's also Kentucky Derby Day. Paul Sparks of Myrtle Beach South Carolina wears his rabbit hat to opening day at Monmouth Park.Opening Day of Horseracing at Monmouth Park brought out the crowds and celebrators since it's also Kentucky Derby Day. Opening Day of Horseracing at Monmouth Park brought out the crowds and celebrators since it's also Kentucky Derby Day. Matt Rowan of Galloway Township and Monica Trevino of Mexico pose behind photo setups as they attend opening day of Horseracing at Monmouth Park brought out the crowds and celebrators since it's also Kentucky Derby Day.

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“I’m being told I’ll be able to open (once Gov. Murphy signs the regulation bill) so I have to trust the process and react to whatever happens,” Drazin said. “So, if an obstacle were to come up between now and June 8th, I’m going to be making sure everything is in order. I think the legislature and the governor is all in to help race tracks and casinos get open.

“I’ve been fighting this fight for so many years to move forward to get to the point where we have a victory. Obviously, because I invested our money, took the risks and did all the work and got a victory, I’m anxious to open, and I think the public has been clamoring for sports betting.

“People don’t ask me about racing anymore. They ask me, when can I make my sports bet? So, I was anxious to deliver that to the public because everyone who has supported this fight deserves to be able to participate and get up and running.”

Whether that comes after other states begin remains to be seen.

Steven Falk: 732-643-4267; sfalk@gannettnj.com 

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