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States to seek sports betting

May 27, 2008 7:00 PM

Staff & Wire Reports | Two Eastern seaboard states last week took action to legalize sports betting.

In Delaware, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow for the establishment of sports betting in the state.

While supporters of the bill say it would generate needed revenue for the state, the bill is expected to face tough opposition in the Senate.

In New Jersey, the Senate Committee on Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation heard testimony on a proposal to legalize sports betting in Atlantic City casinos and New Jersey race tracks.

State Senator Raymond Lesniak argued that Governor Jon Corzine should file suit declaring the federal law banning sports betting a violation of interstate commerce.

"Sports betting is a reality," Lesniak said. "Let’s put it to good use and tell Congress New Jersey will no longer allow it to discriminate against our residents."

Lesniak added that the federal law passed in 1993 cannot favor some states over others.

"Other states are likely to support our efforts if we take the lead," he said.

Lesniak said that if the governor doesn’t take action, he would file a lawsuit himself.

Gov. Corzine’s office didn’t comment on Lesniak’s request.

The federal law limits sports betting to four states – Nevada, Oregon, Delaware and Montana – although only Nevada has passed enabling legislation allowing legal sports betting.

Proponents of legalized sports betting say illegal bookmakers fail to pay about $7 billion a year in federal wagering excise taxes, according to an Internal Revenue Service estimate based on a National Gambling Impact Study.

Backers of legalized sports betting in New Jersey estimated that $800 million could be wagered annually on pro sports in Atlantic City casinos.

In Nevada, nearly $2.6 billion was wagered on sports last year, although sports books won only $168 million, a 6.5 percent hold.

A special counsel to the National Football League, Jay Moyer, said the federal law would withstand a court challenge.

The NFL has long been an opponent of legalized sports betting.