Six years after passing the state’s Sports Wagering Act – a bill which eventually led to the repeal of a federal sports betting ban – New Jersey officially launched its sports betting industry on June 14.
Exactly one month removed from the U.S. Supreme Court striking down PASPA – the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 – Governor Phil Murphy visited Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport to place the ceremonial first wagers.
Murphy played to the home crowd by backing the New Jersey Devils as a longshot 40 to 1 futures bet to win the Stanley Cup.
Three days earlier, Murphy’s signature on a final sports betting regulation bill made things official, legalizing sportsbooks throughout the Garden State. At the time, Murphy delivered the following statement on the historic reform:
“Today, we’re finally making the dream of legalized sports betting a reality for New Jersey.
“I’m thrilled to sign Assembly Bill 4111 because 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.”
Monmouth Park earned the right to serve as the first venue to offer legal betting, as the racetrack was one of the defendants in the sprawling case eventually combined to form Murphy vs. NCAA. Anticipating a favorable ruling from the Court, chief executive Dennis Drazin partnered with William Hill U.S. to build a convertible sports bar / sports book facility at Monmouth Park.
In a public statement, Drazin celebrated New Jersey’s triumph over federal intervention in sports betting regulation:
“We’re delighted to welcome Governor Murphy to Monmouth Park for this momentous occasion.
Throughout this process Governor Murphy has always had Monmouth Park’s back and as a Monmouth County resident we’re delighted that sports betting in New Jersey gets started right in his backyard.
We are thankful to all those who will make this Thursday a day long remembered and even more so, looking forward to sports fans from all over converging on Monmouth Park to partake in sports betting, which was overwhelming approved by Garden State voters nearly seven years ago.”
By joining forces with William Hill U.S. – an extension of the U.K.’s leading bet shop William Hill, and the leading sportsbook operator in Las Vegas – Monmouth Park has decades of industry knowledge working in its favor.
Joe Asher, who serves as chief executive officer for William Hill U.S., offered his take on the company’s expansion into New Jersey.
“This is a long time coming, so it’s very exciting.
To come here on the day it’s happening, and to see all the news trucks outside – you start to think of the path we traveled to get here. You see all the new employees working here.
It just reinforces the jobs that have been created by the Supreme Court’s decision and the efforts of so many people for so long.”
Only a half-hour after Monmouth Park accepted Murphy’s bet, the Borgata Casino Resort & Spa in Atlantic City opened its MGM-operated sportsbook for business.
The first wager was placed by none other than Julius “Dr. J” Irving, who led the New York Nets of the American Basketball Association (ABA) to two titles in the 1970s. Irving put $5 up on the Philadelphia Eagles to claim their second straight Super Bowl championship this season.
Borgata president Marcus Glover spoke to the Press of Atlantic City to discuss launching a sportsbook during the casino’s 15th anniversary year:
“This couldn’t be a better birthday present for Borgata and our team members today to bring on another form of entertainment,”
(Sports betting) brings a sense of vibrancy and adds to the excitement that already exists inside the four walls of Borgata today.
Today, Borgata leads the way as New Jersey enters a new era of sports entertainment.”