The early history of gambling in New Jersey is very similar to many other states. In 1840, the state banned the private lotteries that were hugely popular at the time. In 1897 they banned all other forms of gambling. This didn’t stop anyone from betting, however, as casino gaming and other forms of betting just moved underground under the purview of organized crime. The pendulum started to swing the other way in 1939 with the return of parimutuel wagering on horse racing (it had previously been legal from 1870 to 1894). Charity bingo and raffle games became legal in 1953 and the New JerseyLottery was launched in 1970. The NJ Lottery does have some historical significance as it was the first state lottery that allowed players to pick their own numbers starting in 1975. The lottery continues to this day offering an average assortment of draw games and instant scratch offs.
New Jersey gambling began to get interesting in the 1970s. After a referendum to open casinos state wide failed in 1974 a separate referendum to allow casinos in Atlantic City was approved in 1976. The first casino was Resorts Atlantic City which opened for business in 1978. Atlantic City initially enjoyed huge success but has struggled in recent decades. Today, there are nine casinos in New Jersey all of which are located in Atlantic City. The struggles of the casino industry in the state led to the push to allow them to offer sports betting which has recently come to fruition. New Jersey casinos offer the full gamut of wagering opportunities including slots, table games, live poker and sports betting.
In 2013, online betting became legal in New Jersey including poker and casino games. Bets can be placed anywhere from within the state. Most recently, New Jersey became the second state to offer sports betting following the Supreme Court’s ruling against PASPA. On June 11, 2018 Governor Phil Murphy signed the sports betting bill into law. A William Hill owned sportsbook at Monmouth Park took the first legal wager on Thursday, June 14 with Governor Murphy doing the honors of placing the bet. The first Atlantic City casino booked their first bet a half hour later at The Borgata.
The question now is ‘where do we go from here?’The original plan was to use sports betting to reinvigorate the Atlantic City casinos but the state’s parimutuel wagering facilities have also been cut in on the action. It’s only a matter of time before New Jersey residents will demand greater access to sports betting statewide. Will the state allow more locations for in-person sports betting, or will the online access solve the problem?That remains to be seen but it’ll definitely be interesting. For now, Nevada might have the largest gaming industry in the United States but you can make a compelling case that New Jersey is the most dynamic and innovative market.