New Jersey track may start sports betting Sunday

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) One New Jersey horse racing track said it hopes to begin taking sports bets on Sunday, less than a week after the state government announced that such enterprises would no longer be illegal in New Jersey.

And even if the track cannot be ready to accept bets on Sunday, it intends to start doing so within 30 days, Monmouth Park Racetrack legal adviser Dennis Drazin told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

He said the track in Oceanport has been working over the last year to prepare a room for its sports book and is working with a sports-betting firm, William Hill.

Drazin said the demand is high.

”I got calls from people who wanted to come to the track last night to bet,” he said.

He added that if the book is open Sunday – the main day for heavily bet NFL football games – it would probably be a ”very basic operation.”

Speaking at a news conference Tuesday in Camden, Gov. Chris Christie said the state government would have no role in either regulating or taxing sports books. He also said he would not encourage or discourage casinos or racetracks to get into the business.

Sports betting has long been seen in the gambling industry a potential boon to New Jersey, where the casinos in Atlantic City have been struggling mightily amid growing competition in nearby states. Three have closed this year, including two in the last few weeks. A third, Trump Plaza, is scheduled to close next week. And that casino’s parent company, which owns an additional casino in the city, filed for bankruptcy on Tuesday.

In 2011, New Jersey voters overwhelmingly endorsed legal sports betting through in a nonbinding referendum, but the books never opened because of a 1992 federal law that restricted betting to a few states.

On Monday, Christie nevertheless announced a directive that sports betting was no longer illegal in the state, so long as it’s not sponsored by the state government. His administration also filed a request with a judge to say that the action is legal.

It appears that some other casinos and racetracks will wait for a judge’s permission before launching sports betting.

Drazin said he expects professional and college sports officials to challenge Monmouth Park’s opening. So far, the leagues, which have previously opposed the expansion of legal sports betting, have not commented on Christie’s latest move.

Whether Monmouth Park is taking sports bets Sunday could be up to a judge, Drazin said.

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