Phil Murphy Sports Betting

Peter Haskell/WCBS 880

Gov. Murphy Places First Legal Sports Bets As New Jersey Kicks Off New Era Of Gambling

June 14, 2018 - 11:04 am

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (WCBS 880/AP) — In 1978, the Democratic governor of New Jersey threw the first dice at an Atlantic City casino to kick off an era of legal gambling in the state. Forty years later, another Democratic governor placed the state's first legal bet on a sporting event.

Gov. Phil Murphy placed a pair of bets Thursday morning at Monmouth Park, a horse racing track near the Jersey shore in Oceanport. He put $20 on Germany to win the World Cup and $20 on the New Jersey Devils to win the Stanley Cup next year.

"I'm thrilled to be doing it, it's been a long time coming," Murphy said.

Like Gov. Brendan Byrne, who shared the first toss of the dice with entertainer Steve Lawrence in the 1978 opening of Resorts casino, Murphy ushered in a new form of gambling intended to take it out of the shadows and the domain of organized crime, and into the light of regulation, consumer protection and government taxation.

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.

Retired State Sen. Ray Lesniak, who was the driving force in getting this project approved, is touting the benefits for the economy.

“Huge, this is so, we’ve lost nearly 15,000 jobs in casinos and our racetrack industry," Lesniak said.

The track took the first bets in the state, starting at 10:30 a.m. Thirty minutes later and about 70 miles to the south, the Borgata became Atlantic City's first casino to begin taking such bets. Other casinos and tracks eventually plan to offer sports betting, but none has announced plans to do so in the next few days.

Bets can be placed on World Cup and baseball games that are being played Thursday or on future events.

"Football is right around the corner in the fall. We have week one lines will be out. Super Bowl odds will be out as well," Michael Grodsky, of William Hill. "We have staffed up, hired just under 50 employees so far."

New Jersey won a U.S. Supreme Court case last month, overturning a federal law that restricted legal sports betting to just four states: Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon; only Nevada had offered bets on single games. Delaware started taking single-game sports bets last week.

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.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)