On Thursday morning, at 11 o’clock ET, the biggest sports betting event on the planet gets underway. And literally just in time for the World Cup opener – in fact, 30 minutes before kickoff – legal, regulated sports betting will launch in New Jersey.
Last week, the state Legislature unanimously passed the bill to legalize such wagering, and on Monday afternoon, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed the bill into law. Monmouth Park swiftly announced a ceremonial event set for 10:30 a.m. ET Thursday to open sports betting at its William Hill US sportsbook.
“Today, we’re finally making the dream of legalized sports betting a reality for New Jersey,” Gov. Murphy said. “I’m thrilled to sign Assembly Bill 4111, because it means that our casinos in Atlantic City and our racetracks throughout our state can attract new business and new fans, boosting their own long-term financial prospects. This is the right move for New Jersey, and it will strengthen our economy.”
It was a long time coming, after years of the Garden State battling the courts for the right to allow sports betting, culminated by last month’s Supreme Court ruling that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 was unconstitutional.
That decision cleared the way for New Jersey, though it ended up second to the starting gate in the wake of the ruling, as Delaware launched sports betting a week ago. Still, New Jersey will now join Delaware and Nevada as the only states offering legal, regulated, single-game sports wagering. New Jersey will also have plenty of other options, such as championship futures betting and proposition bets.
“Today is a great day for New Jersey,” said Dennis Drazin, CEO of Darby Development, which operates Monmouth Park. “After a thorough review of the legislation, Gov. Murphy has taken decisive and swift action in the best interests of New Jersey’s economy and sports fans across our state. I look forward to the governor joining us at Monmouth Park Racetrack on Thursday morning to usher in a new era for New Jersey by placing the first bet.”
William Hill US did not comment on Monday, but previously noted its eagerness to get started at Monmouth.
“We are excited, not just for ourselves, but for sports fans across the country,” William Hill US CEO Joe Asher said following the Supreme Court decision. “We’ve been working toward this day for a long time.”
As has MGM Resorts International, which spent months preparing for this to happen and has a sportsbook ready to go at its Borgata Hotel Casino in Atlantic City. MGM hasn’t yet announced the date it will begin accepting wagers, but within the week is not out of the question.
“Borgata is pleased the governor has signed the New Jersey sports wagering legislation, and we are moving ahead with all possible speed to begin accepting legal sports bets as soon as required regulatory approvals are in place,” MGM Resorts stated in a news release Monday. “Having spent decades successfully operating sportsbooks in Nevada and building trust with regulators, MGM Resorts is positioned to be a leader in sports wagering.”
New Jersey lawmakers and analysts apparently have gotten a much better grip on expected tax revenue to be had from sports betting, as well. While some states are tossing around numbers of tens or even hundreds of millions, Gov. Murphy’s release Monday pegged expected state revenue at $13 million in the first full year of operation.
The governor’s release also noted that the New Jersey Racing Commission will meet Wednesday to review regulations. Following the adoption and ratification of those regulations, licensed racetracks will be able to apply for a temporary waiver to commence sports betting. Those actions appear to be little more than formalities, based on Monmouth’s Thursday launch.
Despite the NBA and NHL playoffs already wrapping up, this is still a good week to unveil sports betting. The aforementioned World Cup opens with host Russia facing Saudi Arabia in that 11 a.m. ET start Thursday, with the tournament continuing through July 15. The U.S. Open men’s golf tournament is also this weekend, with plenty of eyeballs and wagers on Tiger Woods among others, and of course there’s baseball to bet, as well.
Gov. Murphy will be among a group of officials on hand for the 10:30 a.m. ET inaugural wager Thursday.
Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.