TRENTON – The Assembly had a chock-a-block agenda yesterday, including several bills that deal with the horse racing and casino industries.
Many of the initiatives were jumpstarted by Gov. Chris Christie’s commissioned report organized by developer Jon Hanson, although the Democrats who control the legislature conducted their own summits to examine the issue.
A merger of power players, including Christie, has come to the conclusion that a longstanding agreement between the casinos and the race tracks should come to an end.
So the multi-million dollar annual subsidy from the beach resort to the dirt tracks that, for years, stemmed the need for slots, gaming, or gambling at the raceways is now kaput.
With that established, a series of other initiatives to keep the racing and equestrian industries afloat have come forth.
At the same time, the state is taking steps to stabilize the decaying economy in Atlantic City.
State Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Elizabeth) is heading a two-front approach to legalize sports betting in New Jersey, which could help accomplish both ends.
His lawfirm, Weiner Lesniak, is challenging a federal law restricting sports betting to states previously approved.
Lesniak also has, SCR132, a resolution proposing a constitutional amendment allowing sports wagering at Atlantic City casinos and horse racing venues.
The resolution is only the first step in the constitutional amendment process; the initiative will go before voters for referendum next November, and Lesniak expects a court decision by then, he told The Record.
His piece of legislation moved through both houses yesterday, acing the Assembly, 54-17-4, and cruising through the Senate, 36-3.
The down votes in the Senate came from Mike Doherty (R-Washington Twp.), Shirley Turner (D-Lawrenceville), and Richard Codey (D-Roseland). State Sen. Donald Norcross (D-Camden) did not vote.
The only Democratic no-vote in the Assembly was cast by Patrick Diegnan (D-So. Plainfield).
Betting the ponies
Other bills aimed at salvaging the horse racing industry were passed with little opposition.
Exchange wagering was passed in both houses; A2926 authorizes off-setting betting on in- and out-of-state horse races. The only votes against the measure came from state Sen. Gerry Cardinale (R-Demarest) and Assemblyman Alex DeCroce (R-Parsippany).
A1705, which revisits provisions of the Off-Track and Account Wagering Act, was confirmed by the Assembly after passage by the Senate in November. The only opposition on record in either house is state Sen. Ronald Rice, Sr. (D-Newark).
Both S2229, which permits parimutuel pools to facilitate substantial wagering (passed by the Senate in November), and A3580, which reconfigures negotiation and revenue structures for casino simulcasts of out-of-state horse races (in Senate committee), gained unanimous approval in the Assembly.
A few beach-town Republicans opposed A3498, which authorizes internet-based account wagering from residents of eligible United States jurisdictions. The bill is currently in Senate committee.
Assemblypersons John Amodeo (R-Margate), Vincent Polistina (R-Egg Harbor), and DiAnne Gove (R-Long Beach) provided opposition in a 72-3 vote.
Other casino business
Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Paulsboro) proposed amendments that held up his casino bill, A3517, which “revises various aspects of casino industry regulation,” including expanding the authority of the Division of Gaming Enforcement.
Also never hitting the floor yesterday was AJR65, a joint resolution to establish a Casino Gaming Study Commission to measure the impact of casino reforms and monitor prospects for gaming in Bergen County.