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Higher than expected voter turnout linked to NJ Transit delays; voters approve sports gambling

GLENN TOWNES Special to the AmNews | 11/10/2011, 11:55 a.m.

Downed power lines and the immediate evacuation of at least one train on the busy New Jersey Transit service during the Tuesday morning commute caused chaos for thousands of metro area commuters-but commuter angst may have led to a surprising boost in the number of people who opted to cast a vote instead of waiting on idle train platforms.

Several power lines near the Metuchen, N.J., train station fell onto or near the rail tracks. The high-voltage wires forced NJ Transit officials to order the immediate evacuation of several hundred people from at least one train and caused morning delays of all trains of up to an hour. As Tuesday was Election Day and polling centers opened as early as 7 a.m. in some locations, many stranded commuters opted to invoke their civic duty and vote.

By midday, several polling clerks were reporting a "slightly higher than expected turnout of voters," at various locations.

Among some of the most controversial issues on this year's ballot was a plan to add New Jersey to the short list of states to offer legal sports betting. More than 60 percent of all voters said they want the legal right to bet on football, baseball and other sports. Under the proposal, bets on various sporting events will be accepted at all Atlantic City casinos, New Jersey's four racetracks and a facility in Cherry Hill.

There is currently a federal ban on sports betting, with only four states-Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon-mandated as exempt from the law. The federal ban would have to be repealed before anyone in the Garden State could legally bet on any college or professional sporting event that occurs in New Jersey or on games in which a New Jersey college team is participating.

Gov. Chris Christie has already endorsed the measure, adding, "I think gambling is surrounding us everywhere now-it's not like in the 1970s, when New Jersey became only the second state in America to allow casino-type gambling." Christie was referring to the dozen or so casinos that have since popped up in neighboring states, including New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

Some bloggers have also weighed in on the move. One wrote, "New Jersey missed a 1991 deadline to legalize sports betting under the federal law. That means that not one of our legislators could figure out a way to make money on it or we would have sports gambling now. Since they are pushing for it now, I guess they have found a way to get rich off it."