August 04, 2010

California senator joins fight to legalise sports betting

California poker bill author Senator Rod Wright has said the US’ most populous state could join New Jersey’s legal challenge to the 18-year-old federal ban on sports betting.

Wright confirmed to ESPN Radio Los Angeles yesterday he had joined New Jersey officials in their fight to legalise sports betting: “You’re talking about an industry that’s already a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States.

“We allow three states – Oregon, Delaware and Nevada – to have sports betting. In addition, if you take the internet that is kinda-sorta now going – internet poker in particular but some of the other online gaming that takes place – you’re talking about an industry, in the United States, that’s probably close to US$15 to US$20bn a year already.”

New Jersey’s lawsuit, filed last March by New Jersey Senator Lesniak, iMEGA and two groups representing horse racing interests in the state, argues the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 is unconstitutional, as it discriminates against the people of New Jersey by allowing four states exempted under the law to reap tax revenue from sports betting while the Garden State cannot.

Wright added that he may ask the California legislature to join the fight: “We’re looking at it. When you talk about gaming or alcohol or prostitution, there’s kind of a push-back from people. … But particularly in this lawsuit, we’re talking about sports betting.

“I’m not a lawyer, but the lawyers to whom I’ve spoken, it’s kind of an equal-protection portion of the federal constitution. How am I able to do something in Oregon that I can’t do in California. What is it about Oregon that gives them a privilege that a guy in San Francisco can’t have?”

Despite being in “general support” of sports betting, recently installed New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie announced last month that he will not be joining Lesniak’s legal battle to bring sports betting to the US state.

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