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State Street: Sports bets likely to end arena's bid for Final Four

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When the NCAA announced that a handful of championships would be moved out of the state due to the legalization of sports betting, the organization left out perhaps the biggest casualty: the chances of Newark’s Prudential Center again hosting men’s basketball tournament games.

While arena representatives have never confirmed a bid for future tournaments, it is widely understood the Prudential Center was one of the arenas that submitted a bid by the August deadline for the 2014, 2015 and 2016 tournaments.

While the venue was positioned to be a promising contender before sports gaming was legalized, it now appears highly unlikely that it will happen, according to sources following the issue.

A source close to the Chris Christie administration said the NCAA decision merits close attention as the state reviews the long-term fallout from the gambling effort, which depends on the state success- fully convincing federal judges that the law should stand.

While the source said other sports leagues are unlikely to withdraw events due to the issue, the NCAA’s actions are cause for concern.

Another source said a key question that remains unanswered is whether the loss of college championship events is out- weighed by the potential benefits of sports betting, which depend on the state maintaining a head start on other states that will likely become interested in the practice if it withstands judicial scrutiny.

All eyes on Christie as a foreclosure bill advances

While Christie continues to blast Sen. Raymond J. Lesniak’s and Assemblyman Jerry Green’s Residential Foreclosure Transformation Act, Trenton lobbyists are unsure where the governor stands on a revived piece of the bill he vetoed in June.

The Assembly was set to advance the measure, which expedites foreclosures of abandoned properties, last week. This bill is the less controversial of the two pieces, but Christie hasn’t taken a public position on the measure.

A separate bill retains the same title as the original bill and still focuses on converting foreclosed homes. While the bill was being shepherded by Lesniak (D-Union) through the Senate, its chances of reaching Christie’s desk were boosted last week when Green (D-Plainfield) signed on to sponsor an Assembly version of the measure, which focuses on converting foreclosed homes into affordable housing.

The bill writers have emphasized that the measure’s cost to the state will be minimal, attempting to address Christie’s announced concern over the bill’s potential cost. However, a source noted the governor may be receiving pressure from his right, from those who are philosophically opposed to adding affordable housing in foreclosed houses across the state.

The bills have received backing from an unusual range of business and community groups, from state bankers, builders and Realtors to housing advocates.

Lobbying so far unable to kill effort to raise minimum wage

With a measure to increase the state’s hourly minimum wage by $1 and to enshrine annual increases in the state constitution, employer groups are doing everything they can to show a united front against the measure.

However, the lobbying effort thus far hasn’t had success, with bill sponsor Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney (D-West Deptford) saying he will not yield in his support for the change, which would raise the minimum from $7.25 to $8.25. The measure was advanced by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on Oct. 15.

“This is one of the things that I’m not bending on,” Sweeney said.

Kathleen Davis, senior vice president of the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey, pointed to a survey that looked at 100 studies on the effect of minimum wage increases on employment and found that increases reduced employment among low-skill workers.

She joined an anti-increase business coalition that included the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, New Jersey Food Council, Commerce & Industry Association of New Jersey, New Jersey Farm Bureau, National Federation of Independent Business New Jersey and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce.

Sweeney said he wanted to take the issue out of periodic political debates, but Sen. Kevin J. O’Toole (R-Wayne) questioned whether the issue was being injected into the 2013 gubernatorial election.

Public notice time shortened on paperless ticketing ban bill

A bill barring New Jersey venues from issuing paperless tickets would have to provide the public with information about unsold tickets three days before the event, under an amendment to the bill advancing in the state Senate.

The bill is opposed by the state’s sports teams and venues, as well as agents for performing artists, while it is supported by online ticket brokers and consumer groups.

The amendment would require ticket issuers to notify the public about how many tickets were issued and how many were held back, as well as how many tickets are sold at each price level. In response to objections from venues and sports teams, Lesniak moved to amend the bill, shortening the public notice requirement from seven to three days before an event.

Venue operators said New Jersey will be at a competitive disadvantage to states that don’t have restrictions on paperless tickets and public notice requirements for tickets that are being held back.

Ron VanDeVeen, MetLife Stadium’s senior vice president of events, questioned whether the bill would prevent the stadium from hosting an event like a Colombia-Brazil soccer match on short notice, or a small club like the Stone Pony in Asbury Park from announcing a Bruce Springsteen concert the morning of the event. Lesniak said the public-notice requirement is tied to the announcement of the event.

The New York Jets’ senior director of ticket operations, Jeff Hecker, said a loss of control over ticketing from the bill could affect the team’s brand image. “Our brand is everything, and we need to be able to control our ticket policies,” he said.

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