A state Assembly committee on Monday unanimously advanced a bill that doubles the time that horse racing bettors have to cash in a winning parimutuel ticket.
The bill passed with minor amendments, to make it identical to the state Senate version that on Thursday also sailed through committee on the apparent way to becoming law.
Currently, a person may claim outstanding parimutuel tickets up to six months from the date the ticket was issued. This bill extends that time period to up to 12 months from the date the ticket was issued. This extension includes parimutuel tickets that were purchased both in-person and online.
Assemblyman Ronald Dancer, a Republican from Ocean County, was the lone member of the Tourism, Gaming, and the Arts Committee to testify on the bill.
“As a result of COVID-19 and the pandemic, an executive order [by Gov. Phil Murphy] closed three racetracks and six off-track wagering sites from March 16 to July 3,” said Dancer, whose co-sponsor on the bill is Essex County Democrat and former Atlantic City casino executive Ralph Caputo.
The bill was designed both to account for that “closed window” but also to give residents time to wait before visiting one of those sites in person should they have safety concerns.
Dancer, a former harness racing driver whose late father, Stanley, remains a legend in the sport with four Hambletonian wins and four Little Brown Jugs as well, said that the bill has been reviewed by officials at the Meadowlands Racetrack, Monmouth Park, and Freehold Raceway and also by the state horsemen’s associations and the attorney general’s office.
The fine print
The Assembly Committee added this language to match the state Senate bill sponsored by former Gov. Richard Codey — still an Essex County Assemblyman — and Monmouth County counterpart Vin Gopal:
“Notwithstanding the provisions of any other law, rule, or regulation to the contrary, winning outstanding parimutuel tickets purchased from the period beginning on September 16, 2019 and ending on the date of the end of the Public Health Emergency declared by the Governor in Executive Order No. 103 of 2020 and as extended shall be eligible to be claimed and shall be payable during the period ending one year following the end of the Public Health Emergency.
“Notwithstanding the provisions of this act or any other law, rule, or regulation to the contrary, unclaimed cash vouchers on horse racing issued or purchased since March 16, 2017 shall be eligible to be claimed and shall be payable during the period ending one year following the end of the Public Health Emergency declared by the Governor in Executive Order No. 103 of 2020 and as extended. The one-year extension shall apply to unclaimed cash vouchers that reach the three-year expiration date before the end of the Public Health Emergency.
“Notwithstanding the provisions of any other law, rule, or regulation to the contrary, all sums held by a permit holder that conducts harness or thoroughbred races for payment of outstanding parimutuel tickets and unclaimed cash vouchers shall not be paid to any account, as required by law, until one year following the end of the Public Health Emergency declared by the Governor in Executive Order No. 103 of 2020 and as extended, to allow a person or persons entitled to such tickets and vouchers to claim the proceeds, pursuant to the provisions of subsections a. and b. of this section.”
Bingo! Committee passes second bill
Also passing unanimously on Monday was a bill that clarifies that bingo and raffles may be conducted online.
The bill drew support from a wide array of charities and other civic-minded groups, with some noting that the pandemic has created greater reliance from the public on charities even as donations have dwindled in many cases because donors themselves currently may be in financial distress.
Linda Czipo, president of the state’s Center for Non-Profits, testified in favor of the bill on the remote Zoom video call.
Czipo noted that many of the state’s gambling laws were “written in the 1950s and 1960s.”
“What we have learned in 2020 and 2021 is that philanthropists have embraced remote options,” Czipo said.
An identical state Senate bill already passed unanimously in a vote of that full chamber last August, so it appears that online raffle and bingo enthusiasts won’t have to wait much longer.