PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) — Following a decade of legal wrangling and a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, sports betting is now live in New Jersey. Gov. Phil Murphy made the first legal wager.
The line stretched outside the door of the Borgata Race and Sportsbook as some were here hours earlier, waiting to place a wager on their team.
It was a ceremonial first bet at 11 a.m. Philadelphia 76ers legend Julius Erving, Borgata executives and state officials opened the historic process.
Dr. J wagered the Philadelphia Eagles would go the distance and again bring home the Lombardi Trophy.
This day has been one in the making for a long time. New Jersey had been twisted in a legal battle to legalize sports betting, arguing Las Vegas and its book had cornered the market for decades.
Atlantic City Council President Marty Small anticipates sports betting will bring an infusion of cash, and generate more visitors
“We look forward to hopefully benefitting and reach the level where the city will actually benefit,” he said.
In its ruling last month, the Supreme Court determined it would be up to individual states to map out procedures and regulations for an industry off-shoot that could mean millions and millions in revenue.
Murphy placed the first bet at Monmouth Park, wagering $20 bets for Germany to win the World Cup soccer tournament, the New Jersey Devils to win hockey’s Stanley Cup next season.
Murphy cited the old adage to “bet with your head, not with your heart.” As the state fought for eight years against a federal law that had limited sports betting to only four states — Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon — the Democratic governor said, “Our heads and hearts were in alignment.”
“We knew in our heads we were right and we knew in our hearts we would win,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of good times ahead.”
Bettors were quick to line up at counters in the track’s sports book facility, underneath video boards touting odds on baseball, football, soccer and hockey.
Al Pniewski, of Hazlet, New Jersey, took the day off from his warehouse job at a food service company to bet $100 on the Pittsburgh Steelers to win the next Super Bowl, at 12-1 odds. (The New England Patriots were favored at 6-1, followed by the Los Angeles Rams and 8-1.)
“My wife thinks I’m nut for doing this,” he said. “This has been a long time coming. On college football Saturdays, me and my brother-in-law are gonna be here every weekend.”
Greg Visone, of Millburn, New Jersey, bet on Russia to prevail in its opening World Cup match against Saudi Arabia.
“I’m taking Russia minus a goal,” he said. “The odds are good; they just changed.”
Visone said he wishes New Jersey had legal sports betting 25 years ago, predicting that the state’s racetracks would be in better financial shape.
Both Pniewski and Visone had previously placed bets with neighborhood bookies, as well as offshore internet sites; both had gotten burned at least once dealing with the shady side of sports betting. Pniewski lost his money with a website when he tried to cash out, and Visone got lured in by fake odds of 40-1 on a soccer game that turned out to be 4-1, after he had wired his money to make the bet.
Those sorts of experiences are among the things legal sports betting aims to prevent. New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement issued its sports betting regulations on Wednesday, and the activity is subject to numerous consumer protections.
British bookmaker William Hill partnered with Monmouth Park to offer sports betting years before it was even possible, in anticipation of the day when a federal prohibition on such wagering in all but four states would be reversed.
“I’m super-excited,” said Joe Asher, CEO of William Hill US. “A lot of people have worked a long time to make this happen.”
Asher said he contacted Dennis Drazin, who runs Monmouth, in 2012 about getting in early on a U.S. sports betting market that did not yet exist. They signed a contract to do it in 2013, and have been preparing ever since.
Drazin said the track has spent $5 million in the run-up to sports betting on physical renovations and legal fees, adding he was “euphoric” to see the first bets actually placed.
Experts predict in-game betting, in which customers use smartphones to wager on developments over the course of a game, will quickly become a major component of sports betting in the U.S.
But online sports betting will not start for at least 30 days in New Jersey; until then, it is limited to casinos and horse tracks.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)