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January 6, 2012

A total of 20 lucky taverns in the northern part of the state will soon be able to sell off-track racing bets through electronic waging terminals, after a bill was approved by committees of both the state Assembly and Senate.

The bill, which will be voted on by the entire legislature on Monday, calls for a three-year pilot program offering horse-betting licenses to bars in 12 northern counties. They include Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Passaic, Union, Morris, Somerset, Warren, Sussex, Hunterdon, and northern Middlesex and Ocean counties. Host municipalities will get a 1 percent cut of every wager.

The bill, which was sponsored by state Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and John Burzichelli, (D-Gloucester), Ralph Caputo (D-Essex), and Connie Wagner (D-Bergen), is designed to recoup some of the lost betting revenue that's been siphoned off to neighboring states. It is expected to pass without Republican opposition. The bill calls for the New Jersey Racing Commission to regulate the program and award the licenses. According to the bill, the pilot program would be subject to review after three years but every license would be reviewed on an annual basis.

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