In a decisive blow for free thinking and the right to squander money on sucker bets (if you just can’t help yourself), the Supreme Court yesterday ended a longstanding ban on sports betting outside of Nevada casinos, allowing states (rather than the federal government) to decide whether their citizens can bet on sports.
The most immediate beneficiaries of this decision reside in New Jersey, where lawmakers fought for the ruling. Hence, it’s the state where casinos and racetracks have been jumping the gun to accept sports wagers. In some locations, enormous flat-screen monitors and betting windows are all but installed.
The most optimistic of the Garden State’s gambling operators has got to be the management team at Monmouth Park. According to the website APP, the track is ready to open its $2 million sports book on Memorial Day. The struggling enterprise—horse racing is not the draw that it once was—is expected to reap as much as $25 million per year by allowing customers to wager on football, basketball and other sports.
Another big winner in all of this is former state Sen. Ray Lesniak. He’s spent some seven years pushing for legalization. Now that it’s come through, Lesniak is gloating as hard as any longshot winner you’ve ever met. “Nobody gave me a snowball’s chance in hell,” he’s been quoted as saying. “I was criticized for trying nothing more than a Hail Mary pass and today I completed it.”
While start dates remain fuzzy for the casinos, there is no doubt that legal sports betting appears to be the lifeline they all need. For years Atlantic City has been struggling to keep up with fancier gambling dens in the nearby states of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Connecticut. The newly opened Resorts World Casino in the Catskill Mountains region of New York wasn’t exactly good news either.
Now, though, AC has something that its neighboring competitors lack—at least for the moment. After all, it’s easy to imagine that reps in the nearby casino jurisdictions are champing at the bit to launch their own sports-betting outlets: It is estimated that within five years 30 states will have legal sports betting.
With a head start on the competition, though, New Jersey operators have a chance to do it bigger and better than everyone else and to not let the competition catch up.
Hopefully, the influx of revenue—estimates have the state’s gambling joints seeing $10 billion per year in sports-betting profits—will be applied to upgrading the Jersey shore casinos and giving visitors from out of state good reason to stick around and blow money after the game clocks tick down.