TRENTON — The Legislature on Thursday approved sports betting at casinos and racetracks, a landmark moment for a state that fought for six years to legalize sports gambling.
Sports books could open within days if operators take advantage of a last-minute addition to the legislation that allows them to start taking bets before the governor signs it.
The bill’s passage came less than three weeks after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of New Jersey’s challenge to the federal ban on sports betting, clearing the way for states to allow legalize gambling on professional, college, and amateur sporting events. One more step — a signature from the governor — will make Garden State sports betting official.
“We as a state have been the leaders in the nation of making this happen,” said Deputy Assembly Majority Leader Eric Houghtaling D., Monmouth before moving to vote on the bill. “It’s just wonderful the things that can be done here with this — strengthening the casinos that we have here in our state, strengthening the tracks that we have here in our state that are struggling, and all the jobs that go along with that.”
Hoping to prop up Atlantic City, New Jersey voters approved a sports-gambling law in 2012, but the state’s attempts at legalizing bets were met with legal challenges from the professional sports leagues and the NCAA. Now, agen sbobet officials hope to rake in tax revenue and revive casinos and racetracks, but with no guarantee that sports wagering will be as lucrative as hoped. Competition in neighboring states is already heating up: Books have opened in neighboring Delaware and rollouts are underway in Pennsylvania and New York.
New Jersey’s bill passed unanimously in both the Senate and Assembly, to applause from legislators. Calling the measure “historic,” lawmakers lauded the benefit they expect sports betting to have for casinos and the state, and made nods to the years and millions spent getting there.
“This is an important step because it takes this industry operating in the shadows, moves it into the economy,” said Assemblyman John Burzichelli D., Gloucester.
The amendment eliminating a provision that had prohibited casinos and racetracks from taking sports bets before the law was signed means books could open as soon as Friday. But operators did not indicate they would, and those hoping to wager online will have to wait: Once the law is signed, a 30-day period must elapse before online sports gambling can begin.