Mobile wagering devices would be allowed at New Jersey racetracks under a bill approved by a Senate committee in Trenton on Thursday.
The bill, which would allow patrons to wager on a horse race using a smartphone, tablet or other mobile device, was passed by the State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee. The legislation now heads to a vote by the full Senate. An identical bill was passed earlier this year by the Assembly.
The bill, which applies to racetrack wagers, is similar to one enacted earlier this year for the casino industry that allows patrons to gamble on a mobile device while on the grounds of a casino resort. Similarly, the latest version of the racetrack bill limits mobile device wagering to the grounds of the racetrack facility, such as while in the dining area or stands.
The Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey unsuccessfully lobbied for the wagering capability to extend to the nearby American Dream Meadowlands retail and entertainment complex, allowing the racetrack to cross-market to shoppers there.
“It would be nice if we could capture that audience,” said Tom Luchento, president of the association. “If you’re hanging out at a trout stream, eventually you’re going to want to drop a pole.”
But some legislators objected to giving racetracks an allowance different from casinos.
“We wanted to apply the same standard that we have in the casinos,” said Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic.
Mobile wagering at racetracks already exists in other states, such as New York. Like casino executives, New Jersey track officials said mobile wagering would benefit their industry only modestly, and only through technological advances.
“It’s not going to save the day, but it’s the wave of the future,” said Jeff Gural, operator of the Meadowlands Racetrack.
Gural said that half of the wagering done at the racetrack comes through terminals that accept bets rather than tellers. New Jersey also allows bettors to call in their wagers.
New York racetracks also provide terminals in dining areas and private booths from which patrons can place a wager, Gural said. Allowing patrons to place a bet on their smartphone would cut down on the cost of providing those terminals, he said.
“For us, it would be much better,” Gural said.
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