Frustration Grows as Murphy Weighs Signing NJ Sports Betting Bill
OCEANPORT — After a long court battle sports betting is now legal in New Jersey, but Gov. Phil Murphy isn't ready to sign a bill to put regulations into effect.
The governor's hesitation to sign the bill was frustrating to Oceanport Borough Council President Joseph Irace who spent the weekend expressing his opinion on Twitter.
"Live from @MonmouthPark in beautiful Oceanport, NJ with the horse #SportsBetting with Paco Lopez up for trainer Jason Servis and owner Dennis Drazin! Governor Murphy can’t stop this one," Irace tweeted on Sunday afternoon.
"For those who really believe Governor Murphy is still 'reading the bill' that his staff helped create, it took me 30 minutes to go through the whole thing," read another tweet.
The Republican believes Murphy's motivation in not signing the bill is either "punitive or political," and isn't sure why on either count, Irace told the Townsquare News Network.
"At this point you have a bill that's been talked about and floated around for three weeks. The governor's race was involved in crafting the bill. To delay it at this point, I don't understand what it could be other than it's a political reason," Irace said.
He said the park's been ready for three weeks, and that he's disappointed no wagers are being taken, pointing out this past week was very big for sports. Because of the delay bettors could not place wagers on events includig the Belmont Stakes, the NBA Finals and the Mets/Yankees series. Plus, the World Cup starts next week.
"Monmouth Park’s been ready to go for three weeks. They’ve been quiet about it. They haven’t gone public with it. I gotta believe everyone’s very, very disappointed. How many bills do you come out of the New Jersey Senate and the NJ Assembly bi-partisanly and unanimously at the last minute the governor says at this point I want to review it?”
Irace said sports wagering would be helpful in their bid to get Triple Crown winner Justify to race in the annual Haskell Invitational
"It’s probably going to cost them more money to get him to come now that he’s a Triple Crown winner, and that sports wagering money would come in handy to get a Triple Crown winner here for the Haskell," Irace said.
Legislators seemed to be encouraging the operators of Monmouth Park to begin accepting bets once they passed the legislation. Mommouth Park was ready to go once the legislation was on the governor's desk, but then backed off when the state racing Commission sent a letter to all tracks, including Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford and Freehold Raceway, warning them not to jump the gun.
"Any track that starts taking bets before the governor signs the bill jeopardizes its ability to become licensed to offer sports betting," warned Racing Commission Director Frank Zanzuccki.
Monmouth County state Senator Declan O'Scanlon wondered in a statement about Murphy's motivation in not signing the bill immediately.
"There is no practical reason why Monmouth Park cannot start accepting wagers while that’s happening–the sky won’t fall, lions won’t roam the streets, locusts won’t ravage our fields," the Republican senator said.
“The Governor is standing before two choices in this scenario: either he’s the hero or he’s the villain. There is simply no in between. So far he is choosing, inexplicably and disappointingly, to be the latter. I’m holding out hope that he heads in the other direction and quickly realizes this was a blatantly wrong move.
Democrat Assemblyman Vin Gopal on his Facebook page also urged the governor to sign the bill.
"It is vital for Monmouth County’s local economy. The legislation passed both houses unanimously and I have spoken directly with the Governor regarding how important this is," Gopal wrote.
Murphy said he wanted to read the bill and "make sure we do what we do right." The governor made an overnight trip out of state on Saturday but returned Sunday to attend two events, according to his official schedule, which did not include any bill signings. The governor has no public schedule on Monday.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report