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NJ voters overwhelmingly approve legal sports betting

9 November 2011

(PRESS RELEASE) -- After a two-year long effort, in the courts and in the state legislature, voters overwhelmingly supported the beginning of legal sports wagering in New Jersey. Voters approved the constitutional question by a final margin of 65% in favor, 35% opposed.

“We’re very happy that now, after this long and difficult process, the question of legal sports betting is at last moving through the proper venues,” said IMEGA director Joe Brennan Jr.

“New Jersey’s citizens have voted to amend their state constitution to permit regulated sports wagering. This referendum was a reflection of the most powerful form of change in our government - a purely democratic, majority decision by popular vote,” Brennan said.

“Regardless of how much the NFL and billionaire team owners want to turn a blind eye to the reality of sports betting in the U.S., regardless of how much they’ll try to leverage their privilege and political connections to block this, they’ll not succeed.”

In press accounts, a counter-narrative was already taking shape: that New Jersey’s vote didn’t really settle much on the question of sports betting, and that it will be a long time, if ever, before the state’s casinos and race tracks started taking bets.

Brennan responded, “Of course, this was just a single step in a process that will likely play out in Federal court. However, it was the most important step.”

“This is no longer an academic argument. Federal law now directly conflicts with the constitutional will of the people of New Jersey. A federal law that was the result of personal interests, intruding into the public space and inflicting real harm on New Jersey, will now be closely examined by the courts. It will no doubt be found fatally flawed, and overturned.”

“Of course, we could avoid all of this - the court battles, the expenditure, the silliness, really - if the Department of Justice would simply acknowledge what it did when PASPA was first enacted almost 20 years ago: that the law is unconstitutional,” Brennan said.

“We could avoid all of this if the NFL and other opponents simply recognized the obvious: sports betting is here, always has been, always will be, no matter how much finger wagging the owners may do at every day fans who, with their wager, choose to back their favorite teams with more than just the exorbitant cost of a ticket, licensed team gear, or Team Logo lottery tickets.”

“If the leagues and their supporters want to protect the integrity of their games - which we do as well - they should embrace regulation with both arms. Because you cannot be vigilant with your head in the sand.”

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