New Jersey is at the centre of a veritable storm over the question of permitting casino gaming outside of Atlantic City.
More than half of the residents in the state are opposed to letting this happen and they have maintained this opinion since 1974 when they voted against it.
Of course, they eventually went on to approve it for Atlantic City and the economy in the area boomed.
The lawmakers who back the legalising of gambling feel that voter dynamics are changing at present and that there will be support from the people by next year, during the presidential elections.
What is really interesting about this push to legalise gaming is that it is very similar to what happened a quarter century ago when there was an attempt to legalise sports betting.
Americans spend a huge amount of money on sports betting, but the government does not regulate the industry or benefit from it because it happens underground entirely.
Keeping this in mind, Sen. Bill Gormley led the charge to make sports betting legal.
However, the efforts did not amount to anything significant because of concerted efforts from powerful people who were arrayed against sports betting.
The New Jersey General Assembly was the centre of a political coup of sorts since a few Senators joined hands to bury the measure so that it wouldn’t ever get passed.
Even though the then Speaker Garabed “Chuck” Haytaian was requested by many Senators and lobbyists to put the measure up for vote, he maintained that it first had to be vetted by the Appropriations Committee, which was under Rodney Frelinghuysen who was widely known to be strongly opposed to legalising sports wagering.
It is believed that the Republican Party plotted to keep the question off the ballots because it did not want any disruption to Christine Todd Whitman’s challenge to Democratic Gov. Jim Florio.
If the question were indeed put to vote, then it would have attracted lots of Democratic Party voters, especially in urban areas.
The bill was later amended to permit betting on professional games and not on college games. However, it faced the same fate as its predecessor and perished in Frelinghuysen’s deadly committee.
Interestingly, the Republicans succeeded in their dirty politics since Whitman managed to vanquish Florio in 1993.
New Jersey, however lost, since it missed the deadline given by Congress to bring the issue to the ballot.
The citizens of New Jersey would have been able to place wagers on sports events, in the way that people from different parts of the world can, if only the bill had been passed by the Senate.
Atlantic City is feeling the pinch of the economy contracting and it would have been able to weather bad time a lot easier if only sports betting would have been permitted.
Let’s hope that the gambling and gaming lobby is influential enough at getting people to leave aside their prejudices regarding the industry.
Loosening restrictions on gambling and bringing it mainstream will definitely help people of the state immensely.