New Jersey Sports Betting Amendment, Public Question 1 (2011)

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Public Question 1
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Type:Constitutional amendment
Constitution:Article IV, Section VII - New Jersey Constitution
Referred by:New Jersey State Legislature (Advisory question)
Status:Approved Approveda
The New Jersey Sports Betting Amendment, Public Question 1 was on the November 8, 2011 ballot in the state of New Jersey as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment.

Despite being referred to the ballot by the state legislature and calling for a constitutional amendment, the measure was not binding. Sports betting would not be allowed in the state until a federal law that limits sports betting in four states was repealed or overturned.[1]

If the federal law is overturned then the bill would allow betting on sports events from the amateur to professional level. Wagering would take place at casinos in Atlantic City and state racetracks. Those wishing to place a wager on an event would be able to do so in person, by telephone or on the internet. However, a ban was included on placing bets on college games that take place in the state or where a state college was involved [2].

The measure was sent to the ballot on December 13, 2010, after the state legislature voted in favor of referring the measure to the ballot.[3][4]


On November 9, immediately following the election, U.S. House Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. announced that he would introduce legislation in Congress on November 14 in efforts to lift the federal ban on sports betting in Atlantic City casino and New Jersey racetracks.[5][6]

Specifically, the legislation calls for removing the state of New Jersey from the federal ban and allowing a lottery, sweepstakes or other betting. The bill would not allow wagering on college games. If approved and enacted, the legislation would take effect immediately.[5]

Also following the vote, State Sen. Raymond Lesniak said he planned to introduce legislation on November 11 to authorize the Casino Control Commission to issue license for sports betting to casinos and racetrack operators. If approved, State Attorney General Paula Dow could then go to federal court and ask that the federal ban be declared unconstitutional.[7] Dow has not said whether she would pursue a lawsuit.[8]

In addition to authorizing licenses for sports betting, it would set the tax rate on casino and racetrack profits at 8 percent which is the same rate the casinos pay on their gambling revenue. The bill is expected to be fast tracked and legislators said they hope to have the bill on Gov. Chris Christie's desk by the end of the 2011 legislative session.[8]

On December 1, 2011 the New Jersey State Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee approved a bill that would permit sports betting at state racetracks and casinos. The committee voted 4-1.[9]

On January 9, 2012 the New Jersey State Legislature approved a bill that would allow the state Casino Control Commission to issue licenses to casinos and racetracks to accept bets on some professional and collegiate events. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed the legislation that same month. Then in May 2012, Christie stated he would move forward with regulations to install sports betting in Atlantic City casinos and the state's racetracks.[10][11][12][13]

The approved legislation, however, remains pending due to the existing federal ban.

As of January 23, 2012 two proposals were filed in the United States Congress. One was filed by Rep. Frank LoBiondo and another filed by Rep. Frank Pallone. LoBiondo's proposal called for allowing states to seek permission to circumvent the 1992 federal law. Pallone's proposal, however, focused on an exemption solely for the state of New Jersey.[14]

Lawsuit by sports organizations

This issue came to a boil, as The National Football League and other professional sports leagues filed a lawsuit in late 2012 against the proposals to allow sports betting in the state of New Jersey.

Lawyers for the state then asked a federal judge to toss a lawsuit filed by the sports leagues. In a 48-page U.S. District Court filing state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa and former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson say that the federal law limiting sports betting to only select states is unconstitutional.

The National Football league stated that legalization of sports betting in New Jersey would subsequently result in damage to their business, claiming that fans would become suspicious of fixed games. Attorneys for the state of New Jersey countered by saying the professional leagues have benefited from sports betting in Nevada.[15]

Reports out of the state claimed that The U.S. Department of Justice planned to intervene in the lawsuit filed by the National Football League and four other sports organizations.

Paperwork was filed by the department on January 22, 2013, - a three page statement on the last day of a 60-day window allowed by Judge Michael Shipp for the federal government to intervene in the case.

Judge Shipp ruled that the federal ban on sports gambling was constitutional and superseded state law, thus blocking sports betting in the state. Gov. Christie, leaders in the state legislature, and the owners of Monmouth Park racetrack filed an appeal of the decision on March 13.[16]

The case now goes before the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.

Election results

See also: 2011 ballot measure election results
New Jersey Public Question 1
Approveda Yes 648,769 64%

Source: Associated Press and The Star-Ledger - 6327 of 6349 precinct reporting - 99%

Text of measure

Ballot language

The official ballot language read as follows:[17].

"Shall the amendment to Article IV, Section VII, paragraph 2 of the Constitution of the State of New Jersey, agreed to by the Legislature, providing that it shall be lawful for the Legislature to authorize by law wagering at casinos or gambling houses in Atlantic City and at current or former running and harness horse racetracks on the results of professional, certain college, or amateur sport or athletic events, be approved?"

Interpretive statement

The interpretive statement of the measure read:[18]

This constitutional amendment would authorize the Legislature to pass laws allowing sports wagering at Atlantic City casinos and at racetracks. Wagers could be placed on professional, certain college, or amateur sport or athletic events. However, wagers could not be placed on college games that take place in New Jersey or in which a New Jersey college team participates regardless of where the game takes place. A wager could be placed at a casino or racetrack either in-person or from any other location through an account wagering system that uses telephone, Internet or other means.

Constitutional changes

See also: New Jersey Sports Betting Amendment, constitutional changes

If the federal ban is lifted, the measure would amend Article IV, Section 7, Paragraph 2 of the New Jersey Constitution.[2]


Lawsuit against federal ban

In 1992, the U.S. Congress passed the "Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act." The Act banned sports betting in all states with the exception of those states that already allowed some form of betting when the law was approved. Such states include: Montana, Oregon, Delaware, and Nevada.[19]

In 2009, New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak filed a lawsuit in United States District Court that argued that a 1992 federal ban on sports betting in forty-six states should be deemed unconstitutional. In the lawsuit, Lesniak pointed out that the law treats four states differently than the rest of the country. The ban placed an exemption for New Jersey, which was allowed to decide if it wanted sports betting, but the Garden State failed to pass a law that would have enacted this, which effectively killed the exemption.

U.S. District Court Judge Garret Brown dismissed the lawsuit during the week of March 7, 2011, stating that voters have not weighed in on the issue.[20]

In a statement made by Lesniak about both the ruling and the 2011 ballot measure, the state senator claimed: " [the judges] decision to dismiss, he left the door open for future efforts to overturn the unconstitutional ban in the courts. If voters in the Garden State approve a referendum...we will essentially set up a constitutional crisis, in which the will of the people, expressed at the ballot box, will come into conflict with a flawed and ultimately unconstitutional federal law. I believe that when that happens, the courts will have to rule in our favor."[20]

The U.S. Department of Justice opposed the lawsuit, stating their disagreement to repeal the federal ban, also known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.


Supporters of the proposed measure included various lawmakers, the Casino Association of New Jersey, Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., American Wagering Inc. and the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

In response to the fact the measure was an advisory measure until the federal law was overturned, Robert Griffin, president of the association and CEO of Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., said, "This November referendum, if passed, would provide an important step in the continuing process towards overturning the federal sports betting ban. If the referendum is passed and if the federal ban is subsequently overturned, legal sports betting would provide an economic boost for Atlantic City and the entire state of New Jersey."[19]

Sen. Raymond Lesniak said, "It's just so wrong that the federal government allows sports betting to take place in Nevada and not in New Jersey. During Super Bowl week and Final Four week, you can't get a room in Las Vegas--and Atlantic City is barren. We need that tourism. We need that revenue."[21] Despite the federal law, Lesniak vowed to introduce legislation should the measure be approved by voters on November 8, 2011.[22]



  • According to State Senator Raymond Lesniak, who introduced the proposal, "It’s putting us in a position to take advantage of a change in the law. So next Super Bowl next year, we’ll be able to bet, just like people in Nevada can." According to the bill's co-sponsor, State Senator Jeff Van Drew, "New Jersey dropped the ball once when it came to legalizing sports betting. Now is our chance to get it right. Pennsylvania's slot parlors are already out-hauling our own casinos, and without new ways to draw bettors to Atlantic City, its competitive edge will dull."[24][3]
  • Senator Raymond Lesniak had been a supporter of allowing sports betting in New Jersey to allow struggling casinos in Atlantic City to expand their revenues. Lesniak filed a lawsuit in 2009 to overturn a 1992 law banning sports betting in 46 states and Washington, D.C.[4].
  • State Assemblywoman Concetta Wagner supported the idea of the amendment, stating, "Sports betting already exists in New Jersey, but only the criminals are enjoying the profits. Sports fans put billions of dollars on the line every year, regardless of its legality. A legal Atlantic City and race track-based sports book would ensure bettors are not fleeced or put in harm's way."[4]
  • Casino Association of New Jersey, the trade group of the state's casino operators, stated support of the measure. According to group president Bob Griffin: "Legalized sports betting will attract more tourists to visit our city and enjoy our world-class entertainment, thriving restaurant industry, brand-name retail shopping and famous Boardwalk. Sports betting will allow Atlantic City to better compete, grow and reinvest in the region."[25]
  • Oceanport’s mayor and council approved a resolution in support of Public Question 1. The resolution said in part, "NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED by the Mayor & Council of the Borough of Oceanport that they support a constitutional amendment, "authorizing the legislature by law to allow wagering on sports events at Atlantic City casinos and at horse racetracks"; and urge residents to do the same when voting on November 8, 2011..."[26]
  • Gov. Chris Christie said on November 2 that sports betting should not be limited to a few states. "The fact is now gaming is everywhere in many states across the country, so there's no reason why sports gaming in my view should be restricted," he said. Christie also agreed to work with Sen. Lesniak to try to implement sports betting in the state.[27] In September 2011, Christie reportedly said that it was pointless to pursue sports betting in light of the existing federal ban.[23]


According to the state campaign finance database, there are no registered committees (PACs).

(last updated October 2011)




  • Harrah's Entertainment, the well known casino company opposed the amendment calling the referendum vote "premature" without changing federal laws allowing the expansion of sports betting. Harrah's cited that Montana, Oregon, Delaware, and Nevada only allow sports betting under a 1992 federal law banning sports wagering in 46 states and the District of Columbia[4].
  • The National Football League (NFL) has traditionally opposed the expansion of sports betting beyond Nevada. In response to the New Jersey measure NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said that the league has a "long-held, unwavering opposition to gambling on NFL games."[23]


According to the state campaign finance database, there are no registered committees (PACs).

(last updated October 2011)

Media editorial positions

See also: Endorsements of New Jersey ballot measures, 2011


  • The Asbury Park Press said, "If it ever happens, legalized sports betting in New Jersey could end up being too little, too late for Atlantic City’s struggling casinos and racetracks. Nonetheless, we think that sports betting should come to Atlantic City because, frankly, it’s practical and it might help lure visitors and preserve jobs — something that’s of utmost importance for New Jersey’s economy. The issue will be the only statewide public question on the Nov. 8 election ballot. We strongly support its passage."[28]
  • The Press of Atlantic City said, "So let's go for it. We certainly have no moral qualms about sports betting, considering how widespread it already is, legally and illegally. Interestingly, this time around, the professional sports leagues don't seem to be lobbying against the measure."[29]
  • The Times of Trenton said, "Illegal sports betting is estimated to generate about $400 billion a year; some put the figure at closer to half a trillion dollars. New Jersey, like every other state, is virtually powerless to stop the illegal transactions. Why not, then, legally establish sports wagering in a way that benefits the state with a new source of tax revenue? That’s the question voters will have to answer Nov. 8. We believe the right response is yes."[30]
  • The Star-Ledger said, "Still, there’s no reason New Jersey shouldn’t try to get a slice of the action. Face it: The state needs the money and casinos need this lifeline...In the end, passage would be moot unless a federal law limiting sports betting to four states is lifted. But voters should vote yes."[31]


  • The Gloucester County Times said, "If the only statewide question on Tuesday’s ballot were straightforward in its wording, and didn’t hide its practical, immediate effect, we’d recommend a “yes” vote...As we’ve stated before, the ban is discriminatory....Nonetheless, there are less-convoluted ways to fight the ban, including working with our congressional delegation to repeal it. The safer bet on Tuesday is to vote “no,” even if you’re among the majority of state voters whom polls say want to allow this kind of wagering."[32]
  • The Inquirer said, "Sports betting is a bad bet for New Jersey. It already relies too heavily on gambling in a market saturated with wagering opportunities. Making sports betting legal would also make it easier to breed more compulsive gamblers. Sports have already been plagued by illegal betting scandals that raise questions about the integrity of games. New Jerseyans should vote NO."[33]
  • The Record said, "We have not seen any organized campaigns in support of either side. No matter how much or how little publicity the question is generating, the proposal is a bad idea and should be defeated."[34]


See also: Polls, 2011 ballot measures
  • A poll released during mid-April 2011 by Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind found that 53 percent of respondents supported sports betting in the state, while 30 percent opposed. The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.[35]
  • A poll released on October 10, 2011 by Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind found that 52 percent support legalizing gambling, while 31 percent are opposed. The poll surveyed 800 registered voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.[36]
    • Additionally, pollsters said that 70 percent of voters said they had to yet to hear information related to the proposal and 67 percent said they had little interest in the issue.[37]
  • A October 6-9 poll by Rutgers-Eagleton Poll revealed that 58 percent of polled registered voters are in favor of Public Question 1, while 31 percent are opposed and 12 percent were undecided. The poll surveyed 903 adults, including a sample of 821 registered voters and 603 likely voters. The poll had a margin of error of +/- 4.0 percentage points.[38][39]

     Position is ahead and at or over 50%     Position is ahead or tied, but under 50%

Date of Poll Pollster In favor Opposed Undecided Number polled
Mar. 29 - Apr. 4, 2011 Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind 53% 30% 17% 711
October 10, 2011 Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind 52% 31% 17% 800
October 6-9, 2011 Rutgers-Eagleton Poll 58% 31% 12% 903

Path to the ballot

See also: Amending the New Jersey Constitution


In New Jersey, the state legislature must approve a proposed amendment by a supermajority vote of 60% but the same amendment can also qualify for the ballot if successive sessions of the New Jersey State Legislature approve it by a simple majority. Four states (Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey and Pennsylvania) have an either/or system: a proposed amendment must be passed by simple majority in two separate legislative sessions, or by a supermajority vote of one session.[40]

Gambling on the ballot in 2011
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Senate vote

The Senate version of the amendment was approved unanimously by the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee by a 4-0 vote on February 8, 2010. A public hearing on SCR 49 was held on April 5, 2010 in Atlantic City, New Jersey[41] [42][43]


There were two floor votes scheduled in the Legislature, but were postponed. The first floor vote was scheduled for May 20, 2010, but was put on hold in anticipation of New Jersey winning the rights to host Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014. Due to Harrah's expressing objection to the sports betting amendment, a Senate floor vote was put on hold until June 21, 2010. The Assembly version of the amendment was approved in committee on June 17, 2010. The amendment did not qualify for the November 2010 ballot as the Legislature did not schedule a vote before August 2, 2010, the deadline to qualify a constitutional amendment.[44] [45][46][47][48].

2011 referral

New Jersey lawmakers voted in favor of sending the proposed constitutional amendment to the November 2011 ballot on December 13, 2010.[4]



The following is a timeline of events surrounding the measure:

Event Date Developments
Approval Feb. 8, 2010 Senate version of amendment approved by the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee.
Floor votes May 20, 2010 Legislative vote was scheduled but put on hold for anticipation of state winning rights to host Super Bowl in 2014.
Approval June 17, 2010 The Assembly version of the amendment was approved in committee.
Deadline missed Aug. 2, 2010 The amendment failed to make 2010 election as Legislature did not schedule a vote before deadline.
Ballot access Dec. 13, 2010 Measure was sent to the 2011 ballot after Legislature approved of the measure.
Election Nov. 2011 Measure will be placed on the general election ballot in the state of New Jersey.

See also

By Bailey Ludlam
Ballot measure writer

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Additional reading



  1. Houston Chronicle, "AC casinos back sports betting referendum", September 13, 2011
  2. 2.0 2.1 New Jersey Legislature, "SCR49", January 19, 2010
  3. 3.0 3.1 New, "N.J. Senate committee approves sports betting constitutional amendment vote", February 8, 2010
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 New, "N.J. Legislature approves legalizing sports betting question on election ballot", December 13, 2010
  5. 5.0 5.1 New Jersey News Room,"Rep. Frank Pallone to introduce bill to overturn federal ban on legalized sports betting in N.J. ," November 9, 2011
  6.,"Another angle eyed for sports betting in NJ," November 10, 2011
  7. Main Justice,"New Jerseyans Back Sports Betting, but U.S. Law Stands in the Way," November 11, 2011
  8. 8.0 8.1 Associated Press,"," November 10, 2011
  9. SBOANJ,"NJ Senate Panel approve sports betting bill," December 13, 2011
  10. Press of Atlantic City,"New Jersey sports-betting bill awaits Christie's signature," January 9, 2012
  11. Las Vegas Business Press,"New Jersey lawmakers OK bill to license casinos, tracks to take sports bets," January 16, 2012
  12.,"Gov. Christie signs bill allowing gamblers to place bets on pro, college sports teams," January 17, 2012
  13., "Christie to advance sports betting regulations", May 26, 2012
  14. Bloomberg,"Two N.J. Congressmen Propose Competing Bills on Sports Bets," January 24, 2012
  15. North, "Feds will intervene in the NJ sports-betting case", January 22, 2013
  16. Star-Ledger, "N.J. appeals decision in federal sports betting case," March 14, 2013
  17. New Jersey Legislature "New Jersey Senate Concurrent Resolution 49 (2010)"(See Page 6)
  18. New Jersey Legislature, "ASSEMBLY CONCURRENT RESOLUTION No. 98", Retrieved May 5, 2011
  19. 19.0 19.1 The Las Vegas Review-Journal,"Sports betting possible in New Jersey," September 17, 2011
  20. 20.0 20.1 New Jersey Newsroom, "N.J. sports betting lawsuit dismissed", March 8, 2011
  21.,"Lawmaker says odds are good sports betting will come to N.J.," September 26, 2011
  22.,"States ponder sports betting as source of new revenue," November 3, 2011
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2,"Speakers support NJ sports betting at state Senate panel hearing," September 26, 2011
  24. Cape May County Herald, "Van Drew Sports Betting Bill Advances", February 9, 2010
  25. Houston Chronicle, "AC casinos back sports betting referendum", September 13, 2011
  26. SBOANJ,"Oceanport endorses sports wagering ballot question," November 4, 2011
  27.,"Christie backs sports betting in New Jersey," November 2, 2011
  28. Asbury Park Press,"'Yes' vote on public question smart bet," October 28, 2011
  29. Press of Atlantic City,"The sports-betting question / Vote yes to help Atlantic City," October 16, 2011
  30. Times of Trenton,"Editorial: N.J. voters should send strong message in support of sports betting referendum," November 1, 2011
  31. The Star-Ledger,"N.J. voters should back sports betting amendment," November 6, 2011
  32. Gloucester County Times,"Make it 'no' on betting question," November 2, 2011
  33. The Inquirer,"Inquirer Editorial: No to sports betting; yes on a rainy-day fund," November 1, 2011
  34. The Record,"The Record: Don't bet on it," November 7, 2011
  35., "Poll: 53 Pct. in NJ Favor Legalized Sports Betting", April 18, 2011
  36. The State Column,"Poll: Voters support legalizing sports betting," October 10, 2011
  37. The State Column,"Poll finds N.J. sports betting measure is popular," October 11, 2011
  38.,"Poll: Majority of N.J. voters support sports betting," October 20, 2011
  39. Eagleton Poll,"Rutgers-Eagleton POll: voters strongly support sports betting," October 19, 2011
  40. Comparative Analysis of the mode of amending state constitutions, p. 108
  41. New Jersey Newsroom "Public hearing on N.J. sports betting set for Atlantic City", March 31, 2010
  42. New Jersey Legislature "Summary of Senate Concurrent Resolution 49 (2010)"(Search using term "SCR 49")
  43. New Jersey Legislature "Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee Report on SCR 49", February 8, 2010
  44. New Jersey Legislature "History of SCR 49(2010)"(Search SCR49)
  45. New Jersey Legislature "History of ACR 98(2010)"(Search ACR98)
  46. Atlantic City Press "New Jersey's successful Super Bowl bid may put sports betting, racetrack slots on hold ", June 2, 2010
  47. Philadelphia Inquirer "Sports betting bill in N.J. gets put on hold, June 11, 2010
  48. PolitickerNJ "Assembly Democratic Legislation to pave way for sports betting at Atlantic City casinos and racetracks advanced by Assembly panel", June 17, 2010