Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman John Burzichelli to expand and boost off-track wagering in New Jersey was released Monday by a Senate panel.

Burzichelli's bill (A-1705) would make several changes to New Jersey's off-track wagering statute, most notably allowing the entities other than the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority to run the facilities.

Qualified and well-suited entities would earn the rights to off-track wagering through a public bidding process, expanding off-track wagering and opening it to new opportunities.

"Off-track wagering hasn't taken off as successfully as it should have, and clearly it hasn't helped our horse racing industry as much as we had hoped," said Burzichelli (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem). "One of the reasons for that is our current law has proven too cumbersome. We can change this rather easily with this bill, which I hope becomes part of the discussion in the weeks ahead as we devise a plan for the future of gaming in our state."

Off-track wagering in New Jersey was authorized by a 2001 law. The law allowed it at 15 locales, but so far only three are operational.

Burzichelli said the changes in the bill would allow places such as restaurants to offer off-track wagering, provided they meet the strict requirements in the bill.

"Making off-track wagering more widely accessible can only help generate interest in our horse racing industry," Burzichelli said. "That hasn't happened under our current law, but with these changes we can make off-track wagering within reach of more New Jersey sports and horse racing fans without hurting attendance at our tracks, and that can only be a good thing."

Revenue from the winning bids would be dedicated to the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and Standardbred Breeders' and Owners' Association of New Jersey.

Applicants would have to receive approval from the municipal planning board, and off-track wagering licensees also would be required to pay to the host municipality 4 percent of their net wagering profits. "This is a no-lose idea based on common sense," Burzichelli said. "It would increase interest in horse racing and allow municipalities to benefit from hosting these facilities by giving them new revenue to help combat property taxes."

The bill passed the Assembly 75-0-3 in May and was released Monday by the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee.