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Home > Columnists > Alice Park
January 03, 2012

New Jersey Legislature attempts to make horse betting and gambling easier


New Jersey residents may not ever have to get up from the bar stool to bet on the ponies. (UPI/John Angelillo)

By ALICE PARK
     News Editor

Horse betting may become easier and more convenient in New Jersey. On Thursday, both branches of the state legislature will sit through hearings and vote on a bill that allows bars and restaurants to install off-track wagering (OTW) terminals. Sponsored by Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Salem), the legislation charges the New Jersey Racing Commission to set up a pilot program for eateries, taverns and similar establishments to supply “electronic terminals for wagering on horse races under issued license.”

Qualified venues in Bergen, Hudson, Essex, Passaic, Union, Morris, Somerset, Hunterdon, Warren, Sussex and northern Middlesex and Ocean counties would receive temporary, three-year  licenses, subject to annual review and renewal by the New Jersey Racing Commission.   Patrons of these select, eligible locations will be able to bet on in-state and out-of-state races, whenever they feel lucky after a few shots. Only 60 licenses will be issued in the pilot program, according to the bill’s current text, though that number is subject to change. New Jersey’s horse owner associations are asking for a maximum of 20 OTW terminals in 12 or fewer locations.  

Burzichelli released a statement saying, “Sports betting already exists in New Jersey, but only the criminals are enjoying the profits. Legal, carefully regulated sports wagering would bolster both Atlantic City and the state. New Jersey should go all-in.”

The act, christened by Burzichelli as the “Easy Bet” legislation was authored to introduce horse race wagering to a new audience, as well as increase revenue and tourism in the state. For the time being, three OTW parlors are up and running in Toms River, Vineland and Fords, while the horse tracks and Atlantic City casinos have also built off-track betting sites. The cost of installation of OTW terminals in bars and restaurants would pale in comparison to building brick and mortar facilities, which could run anywhere between $4 million and $12 million.

Further in the state’s gambling news, Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) is attempting to pass a bill to legalize online gambling within the state’s borders. Lesniak’s goal is to pass his legislation through the legislature and on Governor Chris Christie’s desk by next week. The bill was initially vetoed by Christie through fear of violating federal law; however, as the federal government has deemed in-state bets as not unlawful, Lesniak will make his second attempt.

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