Gov. Philip Murphy signed a bill on Monday legalizing sports betting in New Jersey. Gambling could start as early as Thursday.Credit…Steve Marcus/Reuters
- June 11, 2018
Ending a more than eight-year odyssey to bring sports betting to New Jersey, Gov. Philip D. Murphy signed a bill on Monday that legalizes wagering, with gambling set to start on Thursday — just in time for the start of the World Cup.
For a law designed to restore some of the glitz and glamour to Atlantic City’s casinos, the governor’s bill signing was the opposite: a signature behind closed doors and a statement emailed to the news media.
“Today, we’re finally making the dream of legalized sports betting a reality for New Jersey,” Mr. Murphy, a Democrat, said in the statement. “It means that our casinos in Atlantic City and our racetracks throughout our state can attract new business and new fans, boosting their own long-term financial prospects. This is the right move for New Jersey and it will strengthen our economy.”
The last remaining hurdle standing between would-be bettors and, say, a 6-to-1 wager on Spain to win the World Cup, is the licensing process that is being expedited to get betting operations up and running as soon as possible.
The New Jersey Racing Commission handles licensing for the racetracks. The commission has scheduled a meeting on Wednesday, presumably to accept applications and distribute licenses to operators, a step that is expected to enable Monmouth Park to begin accepting bets as early as Thursday.
Dennis A. Drazin, the operator of Monmouth Park who helped lead the charge to make sports betting legal in the Garden State, heralded the governor’s action as “a great day for New Jersey.”
“I look forward to the governor joining us at Monmouth Park Racetrack on Thursday morning to usher in a new era for New Jersey by placing the first bet,” Mr. Drazin said.
The Meadowlands Racetrack, which announced last week that it would be partnering with Betfair US for retail and online sports betting, is still weeks away from being able to offer sports betting because it needs to build venues and train employees. The state’s other racetrack in Freehold is also not ready to open for sports betting.
The casinos are governed by the state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement, which follows a process similar to the racing commission: It posts regulations, accepts applications and then distributes licenses.
The Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa is the only casino that is prepared to immediately begin taking bets, transforming some betting windows at its horse-racing facility into a temporary sports-gambling site until a permanent venue is completed. Casino officials, however, would not specify when the Borgata would begin taking bets.
“We are moving ahead with all possible speed to begin accepting legal sports bets as soon as required regulatory approvals are in place,” said a statement from MGM Resorts International, which owns the Borgata.
Atlantic City’s six other casinos continue to prepare for sports betting. Some need to build space; others need a sports-book partner to help set up a gambling operation.
Those hoping to place bets online or through a mobile device will still have to wait to gamble: The legislation includes a clause stating that online sports betting cannot start within 30 days of the bill signing.
The establishment of sports betting in New Jersey has been years in the making as the state pursued a legal battle that culminated in last month’s landmark United States Supreme Court decision that overturned a law that effectively banned such gambling in most states. The State Legislature passed the bill on Thursday, but no casino or racetrack could begin taking bets until the governor signed it, leading gamblers, sports-betting operators and some lawmakers to urge Mr. Murphy to move quickly.
Mr. Drazin had been hoping to start taking bets last Friday, in time for Game 4 of the National Basketball Association finals and the Subway Series between the Yankees and Mets.
A last-minute effort that amended the legislation by removing language that threatened punitive action against any operator that accepted wagers before the bill was signed into law was not enough to clear the way for gambling without Mr. Murphy’s signature. The governor held off signing the bill until Monday afternoon, saying that his office needed time to review the legislation for potential legal issues.
Mr. Murphy, a die-hard soccer fan who used to sit on the board of the U.S. Soccer Foundation and owns a majority stake in Sky Blue FC, a professional women’s soccer team, is scheduled to be the keynote speaker on Thursday at the East Coast Gaming Congress in Atlantic City.
Mr. Murphy’s office would not divulge which team the governor might bet on Thursday at Monmouth Park, or even which sport. He could bet the lone New Jersey team — the Devils — to win the Stanley Cup in 2019 at odds that are about 80 to 1, or wager on the Jets or Giants, who play in New Jersey, as underdogs to win the Super Bowl. But if he bets the World Cup, which the United States failed to qualify for, Germany, where Mr. Murphy served as ambassador under President Barack Obama, is a 4-to-1 favorite.
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