National News

With $40 in Bets, New Jersey’s Governor Ushers in Legal Sports Betting

Posted June 14, 2018 2:17 p.m. EDT

OCEANPORT, N.J. — The result of a nearly decadelong, nationwide legal battle was printed in small black ink on receipts about the size of baseball cards.

$20, Germany to win the World Cup, 7-2 odds. $20, New Jersey Devils to win the Stanley Cup, 40-1 odds.

The wagers, held aloft by Gov. Philip D. Murphy on Thursday, were the first legal sports bets placed in New Jersey, heralding a new era in the state that began the effort to legalize sports betting as a way of providing a boost to struggling casinos in Atlantic City casinos and the state’s racetracks.

New Jersey was the victor in a landmark Supreme Court ruling last month that set aside a federal law that had effectively barred sports betting in most of the country.

“There’s an old adage that you bet with your head, not with your heart,” Murphy said. “So, for the past seven years, our heads and our hearts were in alignment as we fought to overturn an unlawful and unfair federal law.”

Sports betting operations begun at two sites in New Jersey — Monmouth Park in Oceanport near the Jersey Shore and at the Borgata casino in Atlantic City — and both were overwhelmed by lines of eager gamblers seemingly thrilled to have the chance to part with their money.

At Monmouth, Charles Rutkowski, 32, waited in line holding his 10-month-old son, Connor, as he analyzed the huge black boards above the betting window, listing odds on baseball and soccer, among other events.

“We’re going to bet on the Yankees, some future bets, to mark the significance of the day,” he said, surprised by the wait. “I didn’t think the lines would be this long. I thought people had work.”

Other gamblers were riskier.

“This is the year: $100 to win on the Browns,” said Ryan Daly, 28, who despite being born and raised in New Jersey, is a fan of the Cleveland Browns, who failed to win a game last season. He noted that given the Browns’ long odds, he stood to make substantial money should a miracle occur and the team wins the Super Bowl.

“Pays $7,500,” he said, flashing his ticket.

At the Borgata, within minutes of the start of betting, a line of people snaked through the race- and sports-betting book.

Scott Cronick, a radio broadcaster from nearby Somers Point, was one of the first to place his bets: the New York Yankees to win the World Series; the Philadelphia 76ers to claim the NBA title; and the Dallas Cowboys to win the Super Bowl.

“I made a lot of dumb bets today as a fan,” he said. “I’ll make smarter bets as we go on.”

“Finally,” he added, “I don’t have to go to my corner bookie.”

The betting started at 11 a.m. on Thursday with the former basketball star, Julius Erving, making a $5 wager “on the Eagles to repeat,” prompting the room to cheer. Stephen M. Sweeney, a Democrat and the state Senate president, bet $200 on the Green Bay Packers to win the Super Bowl.

“This was a seven-year battle,” Sweeney said of the process that led to legalized sports betting, adding that it will likely bring in little in tax revenue but stands to bolster Atlantic City. “This is a game changer.”